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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverThe First Wash of Spring

George Mackay Brown
sample extract

also by George Mackay Brown:

Letters from Hamnavoe
Rockpools and Daffodils
Under Brinkie's Brae

about George Mackay Brown:

Interrogation of Silence
isbn 9781904246251 rrp 17.50 hardback 256 pages

For many years George Mackay Brown wrote a weekly column in The Orcadian, and this book is the fourth selection from it to be collected into book form. Here are more of George Mackay Brown's lyrical and independent-minded musings on those subjects that took his interest. The First Wash of Spring covers the 1990s -- up until the last days of George Mackay Brown's life.


George Mackay Brown was born in Stromness in 1921. He was at Newbattle Abbey College when Edwin Muir was Warden. He read English at Edinburgh and did post-graduate work on Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was known for his poetry, short stories, plays and novels, and won many prizes including in 1987 the James Tait Black prize for his novel The Golden Bird. He died in 1996.

'The power of Mackay Brown lies in a cumulative effect, where the total of his work is greater than individual segments and is not diminished in impact because of this ... these miniature essays, varying in quality and subject matter, generally shimmer with a vitality and energy, start in apparent simplicity, but end with musings that are rarely simplistic'
-- Sunday Herald

'Little by little, the details grow. "I happened to look through the kitchen window yesterday, and there was another reminder of autumn -- a big bluebottle on the thither side of the pane waiting to get in. He was so patient, he must have sat there for half an hour." And so must the poet, we realise ... The detail seems almost naive. But it is the work of a poet, of a novelist, too ... "He transforms everything," remarked Seamus Heaney, "by passing it through the eye of the needle of Orkney." ... This simplicity is not unknowing naivety, or even faux-naivety. This man knows what he is talking about and how he is talking ... "My country is between Ness Road and the Pier Head," he wrote, but his themes are bigger than the world ... Among the daffodils and "midgies" of Stromness we find the man.'
-- Daily Telegraph

'What is most striking about these pieces, apart from their superficial simplicity, is their compactness and sharpness, their sheer economy. Model examples of the miniature, they are "small miracles of compression".'
-- Times Literary Supplement

'It takes a poet's eye to see dandelions as "like little ragged lions" and midges as "tiny Vikings out on a wrecking foray". The month of February seemed to him, "like a young girl at the door of spring, with a crocus and a snowdrop in her fingers".
   'It's writing like this that makes the collection such a pleasure to read ... I suppose it is what I have heard called a "dippy-in" book -- the items are all brief -- but I think readers who start off treating it as such will quickly find themselves gripped under the spell of a master of words.'
-- The Scots Magazine