Faber & Faber, £9.99
The Big Music, By Kirsty Gunn
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Friday 07 June 2013
It sounds a tallish order and (for some readers) a big ask: a fragmentary, overlapping novel of themes-and-variations, woven around the modes of traditional Highland bagpipe music (the piobaireachd) and finished with a 100-page coda of appendices.
The posher prize juries shunned Gunn. Such a pity. For this is a work to cherish, dazzling in its artistry but very moving too – beyond all folklore and musicology – in its core motif of a lone, ageing piper and his fissured family.
Gunn's tunes tell of fathers and children, lost and apart: an achingly lovely elegy for a people, and an art, adrift in modernity.
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