This is a classic of Scottish literature that many non Scots will not have come across. Actually, a lot of Scots won’t have come across it either. This is most likely because it was only Brown’s second book – he died the year after it was published, and the other was published under a pseudonym. It is generally seen as a rejoinder to the sickly, sentimental fiction known as the Scottish kailyard, popular in the late nineteenth century.
I could perhaps best summarise this book as Lewis Grassic Gibbon meets the Mayor of Casterbridge, to give an idea of what it’s about. It shows rural Scots society in an altogether different light from that of the Kailyard, and I’m sorry to say, it’s a portrait that I still recognise to some degree in contemporary Scots culture – all small minded niggling and ‘ah kent his faither’.