And the Land Lay Still – James Robertson

And the Land Lay Still; James Robertson; Penguin; June 2011

Book Summary (taken from Amazon UK:)And the Land Lay Still is nothing less than the story of a nation. James Robertson’s breathtaking novel is a portrait of modern Scotland as seen through the eyes of natives and immigrants, journalists and politicians, drop-outs and spooks, all trying to make their way through a country in the throes of great and rapid change. It is a moving, sweeping story of family, friendship, struggle and hope – epic in every sense.

Please note this book is intended for a 16+ reader.

Literature for Lads Review:
Standing at 670 pages it would be easy to be scared of reading this book.  To read something this large requires a certain devotion, not to mention a large amount of time.  But for those who undertake to read this novel from James Robertson they will be richly rewarded. Every page is to be treasured as Robertson magnificently weaves together 60 years of Scottish political, social and cultural history.

The main thrust of the story centres around Michael Pendreich a photographer who is forever living in the shadow of his father, also a photographer.  With his father dead Michael prepares an exhibition of his Father’s work allowing him to reflect on both the relationship between him and his Father, and also the scale of his Father’s work. The photographs that form the exhibition provide a link to the rich tapestry of characters that inhabit this book.

Characters from all walks and classes of Scottish life feature in the novel with Robertson cleverly intertwining their stories as the book progresses. As we revel in the detail that Robertson gives us on each individual, the iconic moments of Scotland’s post war history are played out before us.  Sometimes we are given a birds eye few of these moments whilst at other times, they merely play out in the background of family life.

The list of characters in the book is sizeable. The enigmatic Jean Armour provides a link between Michael and his Father that the two of them were never able to establish.  Don Lennie is the industrious working class Scot and World War Two survivor. David Eddlestane is a young Tory politician with an unusual sexual fetish, whilst linking each of the parts of the book is the mysterious wanderer handing out small white pebbles to those he meets. There are many others, each woven by Robertson into the book and Scotland’s history expertly.

The plot at times can be a little difficult to follow as it sidesteps, moves backwards and jumps around rather than sticking to a steady course through Scotland’s post-war history. This doesn’t distract the reader too much though and despite the aforementioned length, the pages fly by such is the quality of the writing.

This is an important book which in time will be marked as one of the most important in Scottish Literature.  Not only does it record the post war history of Scotland but it discusses the very nature of Scottishness. The political arguments for and against independence are played out across it’s pages but not in the style of a party political broadcast but in a much more subtle fashion. This book is an exploration of Scottish identity and what it means to be Scottish.

Robertson has created an engrossing, hugely ambitious, but delightfully satisfying novel which is a pleasure to read from beginning to end. As Scotland moves towards a vote to decide on Independence it should be required reading for anyone who wants to know what it means to be Scottish.

Marks out of 10: 8

Here is a trailer for the book which features James Robertson reading from the book alongside some wonderful pictures from Scotland.

For more information on James Robertson visithttp://literature.britishcouncil.org/james-robertson