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'To tell the story of a country or a continent is surely a great and complex undertaking; but the story of a quiet, unnoticed place where there are few people, fewer memories and almost no reliable records - a place such as Glen Conach - may actually be harder to piece together. The hazier everything becomes, the more whatever facts there are become entangled with myth and legend. . .'
Deep in the mountains of north-east Scotland lies Glen Conach, a place of secrets and memories, fable and history. In particular, it holds the stories of three different eras, separated by centuries yet linked by location, by an ancient manuscript and by echoes that travel across time.
In ancient Pictland, the Christian hermit Conach contemplates God and nature, performs miracles and prepares himself for sacrifice. Long after his death, legends about him are set down by an unknown hand in the Book of Conach.
Generations later, in the early nineteenth century, self-promoting antiquarian Charles Kirkliston Gibb is drawn to the Glen, and into the big house at the heart of its fragile community.
In the present day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of a ghost he thinks he has seen. Reflecting on her long life, Maja believes him, for she is haunted by ghosts of her own.
News of the Dead is a captivating exploration of refuge, retreat and the reception of strangers. It measures the space between the stories people tell of themselves - what they forget and what they invent - and the stories through which they may, or may not, be remembered.
© James Robertson 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
A haunted, haunting, and deeply humane book
It's like some beautifully ornate kist or jewel-box that for most of the encounter you admire for its own sake, only to find a key, near the end, that opens onto even more treasure
It is another wonderful piece of storytelling from James Robertson, offering a penetrating exploration of the complexities of collective memory and the tenacity of tradition, all played out through a thousand years of life in a single glen. It has all the makings of a timeless classic in its own right.
James Robertson is an extremely fine novelist . . . This is a superb book.. . It is not a book anyone will forget quickly.
One of Robertson's skills as a novelist is to make both events real and imagined feel equally convincing.
Subtly explores the relationship between place and identity
The Booker Prize-nominated Scottish author of News of the Dead picks the books that have inspired his storied career, from a ‘beautiful, angry, profound’ Native American novel to the best book he read in 2020.