Thursday, March 28, 2013
The Silent Ones by Elisabeth Ogilvie
"Here set the Stones the Priest-King had walked in his cloak of feathers, so long ago that he was only a dream, a myth, to the first Celtic and Pictish Christians who built their chapels and beehive cells on Leodhas...
The Viking raiders went wide of Thrace, believing that of they could not see the Stones, the Stones could not see them and thus they would be spared the awful magic of the unknown gods...
Over the centuries the peat built up around the Stones, but their power never lessened. For they could hide themselves from those who had no right to see them; sometimes they spoke...
The peat was cleared away. The scholars came and went as they will always come and go. And the Stones will stand, impervious to interpretation; all their successive mysteries will never be told..."
From the prologue to The Silent Ones
Published in 1981
To read the description from the book cover check out my earlier post about the this book when I first received it in the mail.
Set in Scotland (on the Isle of Lewis), one of my favorite locations. By one of my favorite authors. A mystery. What is not to love about this book? Ms. Ogilvie usually sets her novels in the state of Maine, which is what drew me to her in the first place, but this one is set in the land of her ancestors.
Our heroine, Alison Barbour, is on the last half of a year long sabbatical from her job as a scholar and author of books with titles like, Folklore in Fact and The Human Psyche. She is on a journey to the birthplace of her great grandmother, Christina MacLeod. A small village named Torsaig, on the Isle of Lewis (or Leodhas in the Gaelic), Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Christina left Leodhas as a young girl all alone and immigrated to America. All Alison has to go on is a faded photo of her when she was young and a few passing comments her dad had made over the years. Alison is the spitting image of Christina, including the flaming red hair. The Stones of Callanish are on the Isle of Lewis and Alison is not only interested in them because her great grandmother grew up around them, but because of her work. The Stones, referred to as the Silent Ones, are the Scottish equivalent to England's Stonehenge and shrouded in mystery and magic. When Alison meets the village storyteller she also finds out there is a secret surrounding her great grandmother and why she had to leave the island. Was there dishonor brought on her family? Does it involve the death of a young pastor?
Alison also writes torrid romances under the pseudonym Mariana Granger. These novels make her a nice little nest egg and its her secret, no one knows she is Mariana! What a romantic setting this will make for her next novel. And that gorgeous Ewen Chisholm will serve well as the model for the hero!
Her last day on the QE2 before arriving in England she is joined at her table by Norris Elliot an investment specialist and another couple on a vacation/business trip. She never dreams she will ever see any of them again as she is going on to Scotland. But they keep showing up in Lewis! What is going on here? Is it a coincidence or something more sinister? What does the ancient Book of St. Neacal have to do with it? Does Ewen have the book, or know where it is? Why does Ewen seem to think he is the Stones protector? Will he and Alison end up together? Does Norris really love her as he declares or is she just an ends to the means? The story takes a sudden turn when Alison comes upon a dead body laying among the Stones early one morning on her way to Ewens. It's someone she knows, too!
Quotes from the book:
Mrs. MacBain didn't answer at once. After a moment she said, "He's a man of great delicacy and tact. She seems to have left in some disgrace, and he didn't know if he should tell you."
"I love the lambs," Alison said. "They're one of the great pleasures of Lewis for me...This shortbread is good.: She held the plate out to him but he shook his head. Regretfully she didn't take more, so as not to appear greedy. "I was looking up a particular saint in one of your books, but I didn't get that far in the index, St. Neacal." No detectable response. "The one who wrote the famous Book,: she added.
"Oh, that one."
"Would you know where the Book is?"
"I'm not sure." He sounded indifferent. Evasive was more like it.
She and Mrs. Mac Bain drove home late in a deep twilight that turned the world into one ordinarily seen only through purple glass. When Alison went to bed, she found pleasure in remembering Bernera. She imagined the clustered or isolated houses huddled comfortable under the violet sky, lighted windows here and there glowing rosily, the sheep quiet as boulders with the lambs tucked in at the ewes' sides; the broad fields going down to the loch, melting into it really, so from the stone house one couldn't tell where the land left off and water began, while across at Breasclete a few lights pierced the thick soft dark like stars.
I know, here's another book that's out of print! Most likely you won't be able to get it at your library anymore either. Try an inter-library loan, sometimes they still have her books in large print. Sorry:) but if you love stories set in Scotland you will really like this one! Alison travels all over the Island and I had great fun following her around on my beautiful wall map of Scotland! I know, I'm a little bit of a fanatic, but I read a lot of Scottish novels and it helps when Katrina or Evee post about places they've been!
You can find this book used at AbeBooks and Alibris. Sorry couldn't find any in the UK. (well one but it was very expensive!)