This huge novel, closer in scope to a Russian epic than to any English counterpart, opens at the turn of the twentieth-century in the extreme poverty of the Rhinns of Galloway, an agicultural backwater of the southern-most part of Scotland.
With a loving regard for the land and its people, Barke traces the lives of David and Jean Ramsay who, full of hope, painstakingly uproot themselves and their family in the search for prosperity. Their efforts to retain respect and a decent way of life are thwarted by unemployment in increasingly hostile circumstances, and a harsh environment inevitably leaves its mark.
But a generation emerges to question the authority of an uncaring society and, even as Fascism rages through Europe, a new hope is born.
James Barke (1905-1958) was born near to Galashiels. He moved to Glasgow in his teens, where he worked in the shipyards and participated actively in the local political and cultural life. His first novel, The World His Pillow, was published in 1933. The recurrent theme of his early fiction is the sadness and bitterness of the empty valleys and glens, and of the men and women who had left, some moving to cities, some emigrating. As the son of farm-workers from Galloway, Barke had personal experience of this changing world. Barke's long-standing interest in Robert Burns led him to The Immortal Memory sequence of five novels, a giant enterprise which balanced his talent as a novelist with his own research into Burns's life and times. These books became bestsellers and represent the major work of his las years.