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The Silver Bough

The Silver Bough

by Neil Miller Gunn

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One of Gunn's lighter and more intriguing novels centring on the investigation of an ancient cairn


One of Gunn's lighter and more intriguing novels centring on the investigation of an ancient cairn

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Well known in his native Scotland, Gunn's imaginative works are beginning to appear in the U.S. This novel, written in 1948, is the third issued by Walker, following Blood Hunt and Key of the Chest . The complex plot fuses Gunn's fascination with archeology and spiritual themes. Archeologist Simon Grant arrives in a Scottish village to excavate a prehistoric burial cairn. Assisted by Andie, a simple, almost mute young man of great strength, Grant soon discovers the skeletons of a mother and child, then a huge crock of gold. When the gold disappears, Grant assumes that Andie has hidden it in a primitive attempt to protect the treasure. The ensuing search through the Scottish highlands becomes a spiritual quest for Grant, linking ancient times with the life around him. Gunn's prose is rich and lyrical, and his characters reflect his intellectual curiosity--debating science, history, philosophy, religion, in wide-ranging asides that, while engaging, sometimes slow the narrative. On the whole, however, this intricately constructed tale, with its deliberate references to Frazier's classic The Golden Bough , is a provocative work that should serve to interest more American readers in a significant 20th-century author. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Arriving in the Highlands at Clochar House, Simon Grant expects a working vacation: a chance to recover from his recent illness while directing a minor, intriguing archaeological dig of the local cairn and standing stones. Nothing goes quite as anticipated--from the strange attitude of the land's owner to the discovery of a pair of skeletons that seem to dictate Grant's subsequent actions. Grant uncovers a cache of gold artifacts, loses them to the acquisitive instincts of the local simpleton who is his labor force, finds his quiet retreat turned into a media event, and somehow undergoes his own spiritual renewal as he attempts to offer understanding and support to the locals. Though the book suffers from the lack of resolution of certain characters' situations, the portrayal of the Highlands and its people makes this worthwhile.-- Judith A. Gifford, Salve Regina Coll. Lib., Newport, R.I.

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Walker & Company
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