Greenvoe, the tight-knit community on the Orcadian island of Hellya, has existed unchanged for generations, but Operation Black Star requires the island for unspecified purposes and threatens the islanders’ way of life
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Greenvoe, the tight-knit community on the Orcadian island of Hellya, has existed unchanged for generations, but Operation Black Star requires the island for unspecified purposes and threatens the islanders’ way of life. A whole host of characters – The Skarf, failed fishermen and Marxist historian; Ivan Westray, boatman and dallier; pious creeler Samuel Whaness; drunken fishermen Bert Kerston; earth-mother Alice Voar, and meths-drinker Timmy Folster – are vividly brought to life in this sparkling mixture of prose and poetry.
In the end Operation Black Star fails, but not before it has ruined the island; but the book ends on a note of hope as the islanders return to celebrate the ritual rebirth of Hellya.
George Mackay Brown (1921–96) was one of the twentieth century’s most distinguished and original writers. His lifelong inspiration and birthplace, Stromness in Orkney, moulded his view of the world, though he studied in Edinburgh and later at Newbattle Abbey College. In 1941 he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis and lived an increasingly reclusive life in Stromness, but he produced a regular stream of publications from 1954 onwards. These included A Calendar of Love (1967), A Time to Keep (1969), Greenvoe (1972), Hawkfall (1974), and, notably, the novel Beside the Ocean of Time (1994), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Saltire Book of the Year.