Margaret Elphinstone Takes Us on a Journey

October 30 Meeting, 7:30 pm, Edinbane Hall

     “…you pick up your character and you follow them. He wanders through all these          worlds, and you need to know what he needs to know. So I got out my canoe on the            Ottawa  River and we went canoeing.”

As I began to research Margaret Elphinstone’s writing projects along with my own memories of her, a thought started to niggle at me about some authors: It’s not just the reading of a book. It’s the body heat it absorbs from my hands. The placing of  my index finger on a precious phrase. The book mark reluctantly fitted against the gutter, when the real world calls me away.

In my own nomadic state, Kindle has had to suffice. As I readied to order a virtual novel of Margaret’s, I saw the words from a couple of lit reviews: “…old-fashioned.” “…slow and beautiful.” “…emotional landslide.” I knew the download would have to wait until I could hold this novel in my hands. Some books are like that.

ElphinstoneHazelnut

“My unimposing find was a scrap of roasted hazelnut, which, when carbon-dated, extended the known history of Orkney back to around 6000 BC. To the time of my novel in fact; I took this as an excellent omen. (The Gathering Night)

Margaret will be visiting the Reading Room on October 30, with the theme, “Journeys into Writing,” and will also discuss the journey theme in her books. Both will be exciting in different ways. She is a documented master of creating characters’ internal journeys from the research that takes her on marvelous adventures. She has made discoveries on archeological digs, ringed a puffin, spent days alone on uninhabited islands, got marooned on Shivinish, made a coracle on Coll (and paddled), and felt the heat through her boots on the cooling lava of Eldfell on the Icelandic island of Heinmaey.

That’s not where it ends though. The author is a child of the 1960s, and she had a bellyful of fire for civil rights, the peace movement, the second wave of feminism, anti-nuclear demonstrations and scrutiny of the values, lifestyles and institutions of the day. “In those days, we thought we would change the world,” she says, to echo American radical feminist Marilyn French.

ElphinstoneSeaVoyabers

Elphinstone sat on the doorstep of Eirik the Red’s house. Very little had changed from what Gudrid had seen 1000 years ago. (Sea Voyageurs)

Margaret appears to have started out her life with a big bang of ideologies, which she claims are invisible from within. “The world does change, but nobody changes it…what we have perceived as the natural order of things cannot be wiped out by any effort of will.”

The era of her novel-writing seems to have popped up in the middle of her life, when she jumped off of the activist treadmill. She suggests writing her novels was an absorbing immersion but we could see it as a natural progression in her study of human nature and “where have we been, where are we going to?”

ElphinstoneSeaRoadElphinstone remarks that as a historical novelist, her characters are constructed by history–not only do they speak and act according to their context, but they can only think and feel within that context. Is this passion she has devoted to the history of our survival the missing link necessary to her developing formula for the future? She has commented that her own generation has been unable to accept a historical cause and effect. “Over issues of climate change or economic profligacy, we have not fully experienced how the world changes.”

Now novel-writing has been retired and she has hopped onto the treadmill again. We can catch her writing essays, making speeches and causing little rumbles within mountain caverns. Margaret Elphinstone is being heard again in those earlier hallways that still echo with a human condition that needs a strong voice. The intimate energy of Edinbane Hall will surely be agitating the little grey cells of anyone thirsty enough to show up.

The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m.. Admission is free for members, £5 for non-members. Our reasonable memberships are always available at the door. Refreshments will  be served and our Good Reads table will exhibit a variety of books, including our two Reading Room anthologies.

For information regarding this event or the Reading Room, we can be contacted at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

This event is sponsored in part by Scottish Book Trust Live Lit

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One thought on “Margaret Elphinstone Takes Us on a Journey

  1. Following that excellent trailer I am really looking forward to this event, terms like ‘economic profligacy’ chime when the degradation of natural resources seems driven by consumerism and yet that consumerism is one of the drivers that prompts visitors to the island to expend natural resources in search of natural wonder. Where is the economic balance? It is bound to be stimulating to hear Margaret Elphinstone’s ideas.

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