A ‘gowk (pronounced go-k) storm’ is an untimely fall of snow in early Spring, an evil or abstract obstruction of short duration– a fitting symbol for the anguished story that unfolds,. Nearly a hundred years ago three girls were born to a minister and his wife in a remote Highland manse. The rigid and patriarchial structure of those times is set against approaching womanhood and its growing awareness of life beyond the safety of home and the wild beauty of the surrounding countryside.
After the disposal by marriage of the eldest, the sisters lives reach a new level of intensity. Emmy, the middle sister, finds to her horror that she is falling love with her best friend’s fiancee. The unfortunate couple become estranged and a tragic outcome seems inevitable in the brooding symbolism of this disturbing story.
Nancy Brysson Morrison wrote many award-winning books. The Gowk Storm was published in 1933. It was a Book Society Choice, went into eight impressions and was successfully dramatised. Long out of print, this remarkable book is a welcome addition to the Canongate Classics. (back of book)
Lisbet, the youngest sister, tells the story of her older sisters tragic love affairs. Both of the girls fall in love with men deemed unacceptable matches by the rigid and prejudiced society. An atmospheric, sad story told in absolutely gorgeous language! I really enjoyed this book and would love to find more of her novels. Especially Breakers and Thea.
This book is one of the 100 best Scottish novels of all times. It is divided into 5 books with a prologue and an epilogue.
I can remember the trees in the garden at home. The manse was built in a very sheltered place, for to reach it from the road one had to walk through a wood, and it was shielded from the loch’s storms by tall trees, stripped bare on one side by the wind. The garden was so full of trees they left little room for anything else. Yellow doronicums used to make a valiant show, and in autumn, amongst skeleton grey leaves, we found veined crocuses. Everything grew a little wildly in that muffled, breathless place. All the trees’ strength went into their straggling height and each one seemed to be stretching upwards in an attempt to see over its neighbour’s untidy head.
Book one. Chapter one.
A pale green light poured down from the wintry sky, as though this earth were lit by chance rays from some other world. Grey sheep silently ate split turnips in the brown fields. The snow had melted in the low lands, leaving everything sad dun shades, and only streaked the mountains, where it lay like the skeletons of huge prehistoric against the horizon, their detail of burn, crag and ravine lost in the immensity of their shadowed bulk. it was as though, in those transient windless seconds between dawn and daylight, the world had resolved itself again into the contours and substances that composed it before man trod on its earth and drank in its air.
This is the original book cover:
Not a lot is known about the Ms. Morrison as she was a very private person and didn’t leave much behind in letters or papers. Here is a nice article about her.
This is book 10 for Read Scotland. I am so behind! Going to Scotland ought to count for at least 5 books though right?:)