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Hellfire and Herring: A Childhood Remembered…

Hellfire and Herring: A Childhood Remembered (2007)

by Christopher Rush

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This is a memoir of a childhood on the east coast of Scotland, in the 1940s and 1950s, in a village whose lives are dominated by the rhythms of the fishing cycle and the rhetoric of the Bible. That probably doesn't sound like the most gripping or relevant of reads, and indeed, not much happens. One chapter deals with the village crazies, another with the intimidating teachers at the school, another focuses on the tall tales of the village gravedigger. Two tour de force chapters focus on the cycles of the year (weather, sea, plants, fish).

But the book is still one of my discoveries of the year so far. It is a deeply moving portrayal of a world which has completely vanished. Rush is not sentimental about the brutal aspects of the life, but the reader can't help regretting some of what has disappeared - in particular, the way that the villagers are so in tune with their surroundings and. It's also intensely poetic - steeped in metaphors of the Bible and the sea. For me, it was a book that needed to be read as slowly as possible, and preferably aloud - I did this for myself, out of necessity, but it would be wonderful to hear it read by someone with the right Scottish burr. ( )
  wandering_star | Mar 23, 2009 |
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You could smell God on the air in St Monans as surely as you could smell heaven.
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'Hellfire & Herring' gives a vivid account of the author's upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s in the little fishing village of St Monans. Rush returns decades later to rediscover his childhood, and offers a frank account of how it was for him.

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