We visited a remote village in the Scottish highlands for our February meeting, where the story under discussion was A.D. Scott’s A Small Death in the Great Glen. Two of the elements we felt Scott handled particularly well, were the evocative descriptions of the setting and time frame for the story. We felt we had time-traveled as well as armchair traveled to Scotland.
We sometimes struggled with the Scottish slang, but appreciated that these also helped reinforce the culture and setting, as well as the history of the area. By the end of the story, we all knew very well what a hoodie crow was, and why it worked so well for the plot and background.
There was much discussion about key themes of domestic and sexual abuse, the restrictive roles for women, and the different prejudices against foreigners – and the different levels of “foreign-ness” that distanced different groups of villagers. Setting the story immediately after World War II brought those difficulties in dealing with foreigners to a higher level, since many of these foreigners were also former enemies. On a lighter note, we loved the Italian wedding scenes, and the introduction of “rock” music at the dance and wedding – all two songs of it!
The introduction of change – both the light-sided rock music, and the changes to Joanne’s role at the newspaper are just a couple of the ways the author also looks at how hard change is for people to deal with, and how subtly indicators of change can be in their inception.
Overall, led by Stephanie, our group loved the writing, and felt further visits to get to know more about the village, and to lose ourselves in the Highlands may also be in order.