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on 31 October 2017
With most of her published works back in print, with The Living Mountain recognised as a classic of its kind, with rumours that some of her unpublished and unavailable work may soon see the light of day and with her picture on a five pound note, Nan Shepherd’s star burns very brightly. It is timely, therefore, that we now have a biography of this important Scottish writer.
Nan Shepherd is elusive; she was self-effacing and muddied the trail of her personal life, concerned that censure would follow given public attitudes in her day. Charlotte Peacock is to be highly commended for the extent of her research which pieces together the elements of Shepherd’s life: this book is an act of considerable scholarship. Peacock weaves a number of themes around the factual information of Nan Shepherd’s life. She explores Shepherd’s place in the Scottish Literary Renaissance and her relationships with it key players, Neil Gunn in particular. She considers in depth how the various people close to Nan Shepherd appear as characters in her three novels. The book is also an interesting record of the cultural and physical changes which occurred in Aberdeen and North East Scotland during Shepherd’s life time and of the growing emancipation of women. She even makes a strong case regarding who the man was for whom Shepherd had such intense and troubling feelings for part of her life. Beyond this, of course, is her ‘traffic with mountain’ which led to Nan Shepherd writing her classic, a book which is part inward journey and part love song to the Cairngorms.
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