funny thing I had almost finished this book when I discovered there was an italian edition.Now, while I have no problems at all with reading books in english, of course I prefer reading in my mother tongue, if I can choose The tentation of headdesking was strong Then, I learned that the italian ebook costs 5 dollars than what I payed for the english one My mood lifted immediately At least, my purchase was motivated PAnyway I had been looking for another pre historical novel to read since I gave up on Earth s children s saga, and this book was literally the first one available that I found looking through Goodread s suggestions With that I mean that the other novels that interested me were out of print, or unavailable on kindle anyway yes Reindeer moon, I am talking of you I ll own you some day, you can trust that Also, it was one of those whose plot caught my attention because it didn t seem to include some major romance and it had mystery in it Well I thank my spider senses for this choice, I ADORE this book I might also say I prefer it to Ms Auel s series First of all, no tvu lurv anyway the part after Ayla and Jondalar meet in VoH are my least favourite part of the book actually , and then..there was something in Elphinstone s description of the characters world, behaviour and culture that felt true Of course it s all speculation we know next to nothing on those people anyway , and the two sets of novels are set in different times mesolithic for this book, paleolitic for ms Auel s but something in Auel s mythology seem less and less authentical if confronted to what Elphinstone recreated there besidesto much sex in Auel s religion o.o.Anyway stage 2 here s the plot.It all starts with the disappearance of young Bakar He leaves his family father, mother Nekan , sisters Alaia and Haizea, Alaia s husband Amets to go hunting with his dog and he never returns back After his disappearance we soon get that he s very likely to be dead , his mother becomes a Go Between, a shaman, basically This is the first major event and first major mystery, of this story what happened to Bakar Then, another thing happens When the family arrives to one of their summer camps, they learn one of their cousins, Sendoa, has taken with him and his group a stranger, Kemen This man claims that he had to flee his homeland, the Linx people s territories, after a tsunami has wiped away his family All who survived were him, his brother Basajaun and a bunch of cousins Together,brothers and cousins, set off to reach the Auk s people lands the main characters tribe , where they had very distant cousins Basajaun and the others, during the way, chose not to reach for the Auks, but to stay among the heron people Kemen arrived to the Auks alone.At the following Gathering camp when all the auks from the various families meet for the big hunt , everyone is asking themselves if the spirits that destroyed linx people didn t follow Kemen among the Auks also becauseremember Bakar s death yeah, they question if bad spirits following Kemen didn t take Bakar with them Then, another mystery A girl, Osan , is found severly injuried Someone tried to choke her to death Nekan helps Osan to get better, and the Go Between ask Kamen to take her as his wife, enraging Osan s other suitor,Edur.But after this set of events, hunt starts to be difficult Meat is scarce, the animals won t give themselves to the people it s a sign that the spirits are enraged by something misterious that has to be solved and fixed, if the Auks want to survive.Now, what happens next is the tale of how those two misteries got solved at last, and of how things were fixed in the end I can t go further with the plot, or I ll spoil the story and I don t think you would like me to spoil it xDWhat I really liked, besides the world s building that was incredible, is that it s a choral narration Basically, the story is narrated by the main characters just as if you were there listening to them telling it around a fire that s what happens Basically, the main characters are telling, in turns, this story around a fire at gathering camp It s a very smart narration device, to me It gave even authenticity to the story, since for all the time of the narration we are in their very heads , we are part of the story We are characters too We are the children listening to the adults telling us a very important story And this made the whole world those characters lived in ever believable and real to me.This is a big difference from the earth s children saga, where the narrator was often distant from the characters, telling us things from a modern POV what those prehistoric guys thought Besides, while the research work was no less accurate than earth s children, Elphinstone put her research into her work in a subtle way, than Auel, who sometimes got lost in showing us what she knew of pre history Here, the research is woven into the plot, advancing it instead of interrupting it to give us academical notions.The plot was kind of slow, actually Not too slow to spoil the thrill, or the whole book actually I liked that the rythm was not fast It gave time to deepen the characters, and their everyday s lives which was very interesting And it make the conclusion of the story very very Climatic I have enjoyed the final scene A LOT I tell you, everything will be put in its right place and everything will make sense in the end And in a MAJESTIC way She was able to set a narrative rythm, slow, but a rythm anyway And I liked it A LOT.The characters are all very well characterized You can tell them apart by the way they speakeveryone differently, according to their personalities as it s supposed to be of course.I have enjoyed this book so much definitely a must read copied from my original review on.co.uk A geologically documented tsunami, a scattering of archaeological evidence, the shamanistic beliefs of hunter gatherer societies Elphinstone has used these ingredients to recreate a prehistoric world Her research is admirable, but even so is her talent for conjuring up the distant past.This is a story told around a campfire by people whose relationship to nature is elemental They have rituals for communicating with the spirits of animals, on whom they depend for survival They joke with each other They are capable of tenderness one moment and brutality the next They seem very different from us and yet, in the end, not so different after all. It was well written, with lovely descriptions of the Mesolithic Scottish landscape 7,000 years ago The author has done a lot of research into what is quite a mysterious period of prehistory I am fascinated by the Mesolithic and am really glad someone has written a novel on it Jean M Auel s prehistoric series is of course very famous, but is based firmly in the Upper Palaeolithic, a very different time and period even further back in time The Gathering Night deals with the human consequences following a great tsunami This was a very real event, caused by a landslide off the coast of Norway It inundated Doggerland , the low lying marshland flats that once connected Britain with the rest of European mainland It extended over much of where the Northern Sea now lies, and was where Kemen s Lynx People were likely based in the book There is a big focus in the story on the people s spirituality and animistic world view, lead by the wisdom of Go Betweens or shamans, and how they rationalise the events that unfold.I liked that the book has no maps, and the author holds her own with helping the reader visualise the landscape She creates her own terms, incorporated into the characters language, for the cardinal directions and naming the various lochs and islands along the west coast of Scotland The names of the characters were odd, and it was only when I finished the book and read the afterword at the back it is explained that Elphinstone utilised real Basque names, which is pretty interesting Basque belongs to one of the few surviving non Indo European languages of the continent and her theory is that Mesolithic hunter gatherers of Europe may have spoken something similar In fact, there is a scientific study of the DNA of the Basque people that supports this theory I had a few gripes though The book is a little slow going It was hard to visualise characters as most of the author s descriptions go lovingly onto the landscape and not so much onto the appearance and dress of individual characters It s especially important with historical fiction, especially for something as alien to us as the Mesolithic, that some detail is given to help us visualise the characters Most of all, I was bothered with the social structure of all the Clans, and how rigidly divided the different roles are by gender I just feel that with so much freedom and potential Elphinstone had to examine what prehistoric hunter gatherer societies could have been like, it was an incredibly boring approach that she went for the rigidly patriarchal system The women are weak and are the burden on the men, who must support and provide for their wives and daughters None of the women are even allowed to directly address the alpha male of the group except for his wife WHY Each Clan is divided into tiny sub groups communication must have been so awkward and clunky on a day today business Having studied this period, it seems to me unlikely that roles like hunting would have been purely allocated to men, and gathering fruits et cetera and all domestic activities would have been done solely by women In doing this, you are limiting the skillsets of each individual and halving everyone s productivity not something any Clan would want to do in such a brutal world of survival Even if that was the case, it s worth pointing out that hunter gatherer diet is 70% gathered food so the women do over half the providing for their Clan Just generally I was a bit grossed out by all the sexist dialogue and attitudes of the characters One of the young women in the story goes mute it later turns out, from the trauma of being raped by her father So the other men tell this poor woman s husband that a mute wife is the best thing ever because he still gets sex from her but he doesn t have to listen to her talk..Lovely I wouldn t mind so much if held a message or was exploring the injustices of such a system, but it didn t do this. This my second read for this great novel I liked it even the second time The world building of a Mesolithic settlement in Scotland is outstanding The characters tell their own story many years later at a clan gathering so that the younger members will know some of the reasons for their history It s a plausible device, which I appreciate The story itself touches on issues of community, identity, gender, sexuality, violence, immigration, and assimilation that are as relevant now as during the time of the novel. The Gathering Night is a novel set in pre history We listen to a bunch of people telling a story about a decisive time in their community, over the course of several evenings They tell the story of how one young man disappeared without a trace, how his mother mourned and changed, and how a stranger arrived, displaced by the total destruction of his own tribe through a tsunami I read the entire novel vaguely assuming it was set in the Pacific Northwest Only after reading the afterword did I realise it was set in ScotlandThe novel sets up mysteries, but, like real lives, people cannot dedicate everything to resolving those mysteries Lives go on answers are not always found straight away, if ever It is not a very plot driven novel.The prose is elegant and the speech rhythm and prehistoric humour is well thought out and compellingly believable The level of detail about hunting gathering is comparable to Jean M Auel novels, but there is no single superheroic protagonist here This is a story of a community, and no one gets to dominate No Ayla in this book I enjoyed reading the book and found it quite absorbing even though it is not very plot driven It is a mellow, but satisfying read The only issue I take with this and, of course, Auel s work is the persistent reliance on the supernatural spirits It detracts from the ability of such novels to truly convince that they treat spirits and the supernatural as real.Still, it s quite a bit literary and subtle than Auel s series and a good novel, on the whole. This is set in Mesolithic Scotland, a time about which very little is known This gives Elphinstone scope to portray a fully imagined subsistence society with its own mythology and belief systems Its characters live off the land and sea and feel close to the animals they hunt and the spirits which govern all their interactions Since it makes sense to the people in the book, that the belief system doesn t actually cohere is neither here nor there In any case very few such things do cohere The tale is told literally by various of the characters taking turns to narrate the central events round a campfire, perhaps at one of the various gatherings the Auk people, around whom the book revolves, attend throughout the year The people are prone to humble bragging of the I m sorry this catch is so meagre or I m sorry this gift of food is so inadequate type.As events unfold the tightness of the plot becomes apparent This is cleverly done, things that at first appear unrelated turn out to be pivotal, and the characters within are all believable as actors in the scenario and as people full stop Apart from their belief in the closeness of their spirits and reincarnation if a child isn t recognised by a family member within days of birth it will be cast out, their intimate connection with their environment, they could be you, me, or anyone you meet People like to think their lives are very difficult, just as they like to think their troubles are unlike anyone else s, applies to any society as does, I m old I know that people have always cared about the same small things, and they always will, and the lament that, There aren t enough tears in this world for all there is to weep about The cover dubs this a wilderness adventure but it isn t an adventure as such It is a description of a way of life that may have been, of a simpler kind of existence It occurred to me a few days after reading it that it therefore bears similarities to the same author s The Incomer and A Sparrow Falls It also aligns itself firmly with the Scottish novel in general in its descriptions of land and here especially seascape I ve yet to be disappointed by an Elphinstone novel. It s not fast paced but it is really engaging The story is told from the viewpoint of several narrators sitting round the camp fire during the Mesolithic era in Scotland And these are indeed different people but they speak with a collective voice which illustrates the communal nature of their existence There is a little repetition of scenes from these different viewpoints but it all builds quite nicely They depend on one another, on their Go Betweens, and the animals that provide for them These early hunter gatherers are depicted as being surprisingly sophisticated, civilised, caring and thoughtful They have their laws and their religion It s amusing the way they all refrain from being boastful, so as not to upset their spirit gods Brutishness between people is a rarity and violence is permitted only to address serious crimes But what happens when laws are broken and their Spirits are upset The story is well rounded, detailed, carefully constructed and absorbing I really enjoyed the trip into this one quite plausible construction of the distant past. Margaret Elphinstone has written a convincing account of what life might have been like in the Mesolithic era in Scotland This era encompassed six thousand years of human occupation from the last Ice Age until the agricultural revolution of around 4000BC Not much is known of Scotland s hunter gatherers, but Elphinstone drew parallels from Inuit, Native American and Sami traditions Hunter gatherer cultures share spiritual practices which show their deep relationship to their land People could make decisions about their lives, just as we do, based on social and spiritual considerations, and not just the material imperatives of where and how to find the next meal The one definite historic event of the time was a tsunami that struck the east coast of Scotland following an underwater landslide off the coast of Norway in about 6150BC The plot of the story is woven from this event as the people try to make sense of it This was an interesting historical read. Between Grandmother Mountain And The Cold Sea, Alaia And Her Family Live Off The Land But When One Of Her Brothers Goes Hunting And Never Returns, The Fragile Balance Of Life Is Upset Half Starved And Maddened With Grief, Alaia S Mother Follows Her Visions And Goes In Search Of Her Lost Son Then A Stranger From A Rival Tribe Appears On Their Hearth Seeking Shelter Are His Stories Of A Great Wave And A People Perished Really To Be Believed What Else Could Drive A Man To Travel Alone Between Tribes In The Depths Of Winter Hopes Of Resolution Come When Alaia S Mother Returns Home As A Go Between, One Able To Commune With The Spirits But As All The Auk People Come Together For Their Annual Gathering Night, Who There Will Listen To The Voice Of A Woman The Gathering Night Is A Story Of Conflict, Loss, Love, Adventure And Devastating Natural Disasters This Utterly Enchanting Pre Historical Novel Is Set Deep In Our Stone Age Past, But Resonates As A Parable Of Our Troubled Planet Years On I actually did something I don t normally do and stopped reading halfway through The story never really captivated me.
Margaret Elphinstone is a Scottish novelist She studied at Queen s College in London and Durham University She was until recently, Professor of Writing in the Department of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, now retired Her academic research areas are Scottish writers and the literature of Scotland s offshore islands.She did extensive study tours in Iceland, Greenland,
- 375 pages
- The Gathering Night
- Margaret Elphinstone
- 11 February 2018 Margaret Elphinstone