At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig

Timor mortis conturbat me, part 2…

🙂 🙂 🙂

At his last meeting with renowned Scottish poet Norman MacCaig, MacCaig laid a charge on Andrew Greig to make a journey after MacCaig’s death to his beloved Assynt in the north west of Scotland, and there to fish in the Loch of the Green Corrie. This is the story of that trip, mixed with Greig’s memories of and musings on MacCaig and his own life.

I’ve said this before, but my rating system is not an indicator of quality but simply of my enjoyment or otherwise of a particular book. In terms of quality, this book deserves more and plenty of people have loved or will love it. So I’ve gone with 3 stars even though I didn’t enjoy it at all.

I often recycle the titles I use for reviews, and I knew what the title for this one would be before I was more than a few chapters in: Timor mortis conturbat me – the fear of death confounds me. I also knew I had used the title before, so checked to see when. Turns out it was when I reviewed the only other book of Greig’s that I have read, In Another Light.

Greig writes of MacCaig’s declining years, of the loss of his mountaineering friend Malcolm Duff, of his own near miss when he suffered from a cyst in his brain, of his father’s death. He tells us of his breakdown following a failed relationship, when he ended up in a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. I found the whole thing deeply depressing.

Andrew Greig

Most people of my age have lost people we loved and recognise that we’re closer to death than birth, and we all deal with it differently. Greig writes it out of his system and does so very well. Many people read about it and find comfort and strength from the recognition of common experience. I know already how grief feels and that it passes or lessens in time, and find no benefit or comfort in reflecting endlessly on my own past losses or anyone else’s. Timor mortis has never confounded me particularly – I’m more of an eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die type. So Greig and I are simply not a good match. And that’s not a criticism of either of us.

I abandoned this one at 30%, and won’t be attempting to read any more of his books. But I’m still happy to recommend them to the many people who find some kind of comfort or insight in having the experience of mortality and loss reflected back to them.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

(P.S. TBR Thursday has moved to Friday this week so it can include the result of The Classics Club Spin #17!)

30 thoughts on “At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig

  1. I clicked the link as something felt familiar and, actually, I do vaguely remember that other review! I think this is a very fair and balanced report, FF. I’m with you in being an eat, drink and be merry type – when our time is up, it’s up, hey ho. But, of course, not everyone feels like this and grief coupled with a fatalistic sense of ones own mortality can be highly effecting for some. I remember the snippet of this you posted before and it gave me high hopes of beautiful prose about Scotland and the Scottish, which I’m sure is no doubt the case. I will be avoiding this one like the plague, though. 🙂

    • He is a great writer but oh, I do find him depressing! It’s just a personality clash, though, which is why I never like to criticise him exactly – I can see that his books would work beautifully for many people. I however am far too busy arranging my Eat Drink and Be Merry Party – I’m expecting us to win a landslide at the next general election. You can be Minister for Blowing Up Balloons if you’d like…

      • Count me in!! The country needs your Eat Drink and Be Merry Party urgently! I shall prepare my lungs at once!!
        (Mumsie has been reading the comments on my post and she is over the moon – she wanted me to pass on her thanks 🙂 )

        • I think it does! The Minister for Party Hats will be in touch shortly to co-ordinate colour schemes…

          (Aw, I’m glad she’s pleased! 😁 Have I ever mentioned to you that Mumsie looks incredibly like one of my cousins? My cousin was adopted though and I have no idea what her birth name was – I don’t even know if she knows herself – so no way to work out if they could be distant relatives…)

    • Yes, I find I’m getting more brutal about abandoning books every year. And probably less inclined to read books that depress me. I like the idea of an eat, drink and be merry group – I think we should form one… 🙂

  2. You’re absolutely right, FictionFan. Everyone deals with grief and mortality in different ways. And when it comes to reading, when your view runs straight up against another view, it can lessen the enjoyment of a book. The bits you shared are well-written, but, yes, I think you’d have to have a certain way of thinking, or at least be in a certain frame of mind/mood to get the most out of it.

    • Yes, I can tell from the reviews that many people have loved it partly because it expresses what they’ve felt. But I think I read more as an escape from real life, so books with such a heavy leaning on “ordinary” grief rarely work for me. He’s an excellent writer, though – one I wished I enjoyed…

  3. I got a kick out of your review here, FF, and am with you 100%. I can’t see myself trudging through such a depressing read. I’m nearly halfway through a similar depressing read myself and if I weren’t so stubborn, I’d have tossed this book at the wall 100 pages ago! I don’t understand the fear of death (probably because of my deep faith). I guess if someone finds consolation in writing about something like that, more power to them — but they have to know not all of us will follow the journey!

    • I’m getting much stricter with myself about abandoning books that depress me – life really is too short, and we all have enough grief and worry in our own lives without “borrowing” other people’s – though I know a lot of people see it quite differently. Oddly enough, I was thinking that it may be my lack of faith that makes me not fear death – it’s not that I don’t enjoy life, but I see no point in worrying about something I can’t prevent. But each to her own, eh? 🙂

  4. This may be the American stuff in me talking, but the repeated use of the names MacCaig and Greig would give me an aneurysm. I would never keep the sounds of them straight in my head, and surely I would confuse one for the other.

  5. For obvious reasons I tend to avoid books about grief mainly because each experience is unique to the individual and the relationship involved. While I’m not yet a fully fledged member of the eat drink and be merry band, I aspire to be and therefore see no benefit in reading something I would find depressing!

    • Yes, indeed – I felt totally differently losing my sister than when my parents died, though I loved them all just as much. But I’ve never found reading about other people’s experience of grief has been a help to me – just brings back feelings I’d rather not disturb. So I’ll keep a good supply of cake, wine and party hats available for anyone who feels up to a bit of merrymaking… 🙂

  6. I read another book by Andrew Greig a few years ago called Fair Helen which I remember really enjoying. It was a novel set in the 16th century and based on an old Scottish ballad. His other books all sounded completely different and much less appealing, so I’ve never read anything else by him. I think that was probably the right decision – I’m not tempted by this one at all!

    • I have a feeling his own near brush with death and his father’s death have influenced several of his later books, and I do see the quality in them – but they’re just not for me. However, I’m intrigued to hear that he wrote a more standard fiction in the past – I may be tempted to give it a try sometime in the future…

  7. I have to admit I’m the same way FF. I’ve experienced loss (like everyone has!) but I’m the ‘look to the future’ type of person, so I don’t like reading about grief for that reason. You’re right though, that lots of people find comfort in this kind of read, so your review is fair.

    • Thank you. Yes, we all react differently and I can tell from the reviews that this book has been loved by many people – but for me this kind of thing just stirs up feelings I prefer to let lie.

  8. I saw this book in a charity shop recently & considered getting it for only as long as it took to read the blurb. Personally, I read non-fiction for education and instruction rather than ‘shared experiences’, preferring to deal with life issues without exploring too deeply into other peoples examples as they tend to give me more sadness rather than solace. So that’s a another party hat for me too 🙂

    • Yes, that’s what I read non-fiction for too – I’m much more likely to read history or a ‘proper’ biography than memoirs generally, but I was kinda expecting this one to be more about nature than it was. Hurrah – we definitely have enough merrymakers for a full-scale party now… I shall get out the fireworks! 😎

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