News of the Dead
How do our roots in the land define us? Hidden in the breath-taking mountains of wild Scotland, Glen Conach is the home of secrets and stories, of fables and folklore. Over hundreds of years, three lives are woven together. In ancient Britain, the hermit Saint Conach performs impossible miracles, which survive as legend in ‘The Book of Glen Conach’. Generations later in the nineteenth century, the book is rediscovered by charlatan Charles Gibb, who hustles his way into the big house at the heart of the village. In the present-day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of ghosts he has seen in the glen. Reflecting back on her long life, Maja believes him, as she has some ghosts of her own. From author James Robertson, ‘News of the Dead’ is a captivating examination of the distance between the stories we tell of ourselves and the way in which we are remembered.
‘To tell the story of a country or a continent is surely a great and complex undertaking; but the story of a quiet, unnoticed place where there are few people, fewer memories and almost no reliable records – a place such as Glen Conach – may actually be harder to piece together. The hazier everything becomes, the more whatever facts there are become entangled with myth and legend. . .’
Deep in the mountains of north-east Scotland lies Glen Conach, a place of secrets and memories, fable and history. In particular, it holds the stories of three different eras, separated by centuries yet linked by location, by an ancient manuscript and by echoes that travel across time.
In ancient Pictland, the Christian hermit Conach contemplates God and nature, performs miracles and prepares himself for sacrifice. Long after his death, legends about him are set down by an unknown hand in the Book of Conach.
Generations later, in the early nineteenth century, self-promoting antiquarian Charles Kirkliston Gibb is drawn to the Glen, and into the big house at the heart of its fragile community.
In the present day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of a ghost he thinks he has seen. Reflecting on her long life, Maja believes him, for she is haunted by ghosts of her own.
News of the Dead is a captivating exploration of refuge, retreat and the reception of strangers. It measures the space between the stories people tell of themselves – what they forget and what they invent – and the stories through which they may, or may not, be remembered.