Already read Sunset Song, probably going to give it a quick reread then tackle the rest.
Excellent. Just excellent. Review to follow.
EDIT: now I can't remember any of the great stuff I had to say about this book, goddamnit. Essentially, I think this is the best female character I have ever seen written in a book, and it was written by a man. What that should tell you I don't know. Too often I feel women are written in broad brush strokes, far more so than men - they're either decidedly within the traditional feminine stereotype, or an over-the-top caricature of what is seen as being opposite from feminine. It's late, my words are not of the good kind. Chris Guthrie is realistic - she is warm and kind and eminently sensible and rational, and sometimes cool, and sometimes stupid, and sometimes weak, but she is ALWAYS real.
I also love the language. I'm Scottish, and in some ways it feels completely alien to me. That's part of what I find beautiful about it.
The texture of the book, its root in the land, as it were, is sometimes a little hard to swallow, but for the most part it's a good anchor to keep the story feeling cohesive, given the dramatic changes that take place between Sunset Song and Cloud Howe, and Cloud Howe and Grey Granite.
Sunset song is by far the best of the three novels. It has the best characters and provided the only actual tearing up moment for me - the deaths of Chae Strachan and Long Rob of the Mill, plus OH GOD EUAN SR BREAK MY HEART YOU GIT. The secondary characters are so rich that you are really absorbed by the world of Blaewearie. Cloud Howe was equally easily my least favourite book - the secondary characters were pretty much universally unlikeable, and while I know that was the point, I missed having someone to "root" for as it were. Dalziel of the Meiklebogs was absolutely excellently slimey, but I missed having someone like Long Rob to temper things. Grey Granite is wonderful solely for Euan Jr's character development and the awesome *woman who owned the guest house with Chris and whose name I have completely forgotten, sigh*.
Anyway, nothing endures, as well we know, but thank god this book has, at least for a while. I beg every Scottish person I know to read it if they want an understanding of what has happened to their country over the last hundred years, and I beg every feminist I know to read it, because this is an important portrayal of a woman's life.
I want to say more about this, but I can't. It's a bit the opposite of my PopCo review: I actively stopped myself from rambling in it but I could have gone for absolute days about what is, ultimately, though a very good book, not anywhere near the level of this. ASQ is one of those rare "six star" books - where PopCo means something right now
, ASQ will still mean something in fifty years, or a hundred years. I think if I break this down book-by-book then it might make things easier.
The most important, and beautiful, thing about Sunset Song is the character crafting. The setting is, inevitably, important, given the background of the struggle between agricultural survival against industrialisation, and, as I said earlier, the "rooting" of the book in the land - Chris's constant return to the standing stones, particularly at times of distress, is obviously not accidental, and is used to structure the whole book. The structure is maybe the only thing I could nitpick with, to be honest - eight shorter chapters in place of the four longer ones would maybe have worked better, but I am REALLY nitpicking. I tend to prefer shorter chapters anyway, so it's maybe just that - a preference. ANYWAY, the characterisation. Oh good lord, I was so on the side of these... I'm going to finish this in the morning or next week, I have to sleep now or I may faint.