Saturday 5 January 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ As the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back in time

Saraband Books
8 November 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Ruth Killick Publicity for my copy of this book

It's 1936 and Alasdair and Rachel are sent by their grieving father to the Outer Hebrides – to the remote and strange Isle of Lewis. The children move in to the blackhouse home of their grandfather and experience a traditional way of life that is a world away from the Glasgow of their earliest years. They soon discover that their kindly granddad is a man unlike others. He thinks differently, has a strong creative streak and still longs for his beautiful first wife, who died too young. And there is one event that shapes him more than any other – the sinking of the HMS Iolaire, which claimed the lives of some 200 people on the very last leg of their long journey home from war.

My thoughts about it..

On the 1st January 1919 HMY Iolaire was bringing servicemen back from active service in WW1. With families waiting at the harbour disaster struck when the yacht sank just yards from the edge of Stornaway harbour with the loss of 200 lives. This was a tragedy of epic proportions, as this isolated Outer Hebridean community had already been greatly affected by losses during the war, and the area, already struggling to cope, never fully recovered. For some, especially those who called these islands home, life would never be the same again.

In 1936, some twenty years after the disaster, and following a family tragedy children Alasdair and Rachel Cruickshank leave Glasgow and are sent to live, with their maternal grandfather Tormod Morrison, on the Isle of Lewis. Tormod's compassionate and understanding nature helps his grandchildren cope with their own sense of grief, and yet, as the book progresses, it becomes obvious that Tormod's own sense of loss runs deep and colours everything about his world. Parts of the book are especially poignant, particularly Tolmod's journal entries from 1918 and yet, there is also a real sense of understanding, not just about the Hebridean way of life, but also about the beauty of really knowing the landscape which shapes your soul.

The book is a sensitive and compassionate look at the effects of this devastating tragedy on a small community and how the scars of such a disaster never really heal. The beauty of the Outer Hebrides and the often bleak landscape act a perfect foil for what is rather a sad story but which is beautifully explained by an author who knows how to bring the history of this community alive.

The Iolaire centenary commemoration took place on the Isle of Lewis on the 1st January 2019.  #Iolaire100

Photo Credit : Sandie McIver

A son of the Hebrides, Donald S. Murray is a writer and poet whose work has been shortlisted for both the Saltire Literary Awards and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His critically acclaimed books bring to life the culture and nature of the Scottish islands, and he appears regularly on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland. The author now lives in Shetland.

Twitter @DonaldSMurray #asthewomenlaydreaming



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