Beside the Ocean of Time

Beside the Ocean of Time Set in the Orkneys on the fictitious island of Norday a young poet daydreams the history of the island and its people He travels back in time to Viking adventures at the court of the Byzantine Empero

  • Title: Beside the Ocean of Time
  • Author: George Mackay Brown
  • ISBN: 9780006548621
  • Page: 324
  • Format: Paperback
  • Set in the Orkneys on the fictitious island of Norday, a young poet daydreams the history of the island and its people He travels back in time to Viking adventures at the court of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople Part of the 1995 Scottish Book Fortnight promotion.

    One thought on “Beside the Ocean of Time”

    1. Due to work and family this took a little longer than usual to read, but the small chance to read a few pages was a delight.This book defies description as to the pleasure the escapism gave. A beautifully crafted book that hits the spot. Best read with Allegaris' Miserere and similar music playing.

    2. George Mackay Brown's brilliant swansong reached the Booker shortlist in 1994, raining so much unwanted attention upon this poet and storyteller who rarely left the Orkney Islands that he needed antidepressants. The book is a marvel and might have bagged the unwelcome prize, had not another Scottish masterpiece appeared the same year, James Kelman's How Late it Was, How Late. Considering it weighs in at just over 200 pages, the breadth of Brown's novel is staggering: in his daydreams the young c [...]

    3. Thorfinn Ragnarson is well-known on the Orkney island of Norday as a lazy, idle and useless boy, who spends his time day-dreaming. But in fact, Thorfinn is imagining the history and future of his island and its people in this lovely book that dips engagingly between the more recent past (the 1930s of Thorfinn’s journey to adulthood) and the distant past that encompasses a Viking voyage to Byzantium. Like Vinland, Beside the Ocean of Time is suffused with George Mackay Brown’s love for and cl [...]

    4. This is a beautiful novel. I found it slow to begin with but it is worth while persisting. The story centres around the inhabitants of the isle of Norday is the North of Scotland in the early 20th century. The protagonist Thorfinn Ragnarson is a bit of a daydreamer and his thoughts and dreams are narrated within the novel. This allows Brown to explore a rich and sentimental Scottish history whilst capturing the beauty and untouched lives of these rural Scottish farmers. Furthermore, the novel ex [...]

    5. A beautiful, quietly moving book that tells a deceptively simple story but carries much beneath it. Set on the fictional Island of Norday in Orkney, GMB acts as the storyteller telling us about the 'Lazy' Thorfin and his fantasies. But the story draws beautifully the people and the feel of the land sometimes with gently mocking humour, but alway with warmth. Living in Orkney I recognise his characters, the small 'Orcadian' attributes which add to the magic of this wonderful place. Harsh realitie [...]

    6. A quick pleasant trip to outer Scotland but neither the characters nor the plot were particularly compelling or developed.

    7. Why had I never heard of this brillian writer until setting foot in his native Scotland? He is a world renowned poet, who grew up on the Orkneys Island of Stromness, the basis for most of his writing, whether poet, prose, novels or other works. This book was listed for the Booker Prize, and it's easy to see why. It covers over 800 years of Orkney history through the daydreams and musings of an Orkney school boy, who is much chided for being "idle and lazy", while vividly reliving the dull histor [...]

    8. When the weather turns wintry, 'tis time to reach for the Orkney Bard. The brilliance of his islands, the rawness of his weather, the warmth of his words and his hearths - it's truly better than socks.Everything GMB wrote is magical, from his poetry to his prose, but Beside the Ocean of Time is widely regarded as his masterpiece. I will always have a soft spot for Magnus, his brutal yet passionate and poignant history of the patron saint of Brown's beloved Orkney, but it'd be churlish to argue w [...]

    9. Dreams and history intertwine in the imaginary world of Thorfinn Ragnarson and his daily life on the island of Norday (in the Orkneys). The first few chapters with the boy are deceptively naive and I read through them wondering what was going on, but halfway through things pick up and the boy grows into a man and the twentieth century happens to the island. A great title too.

    10. This was my first exposure to George MacKay Brown and I hope not the last. A true gem, highly polished, poetic and luminous. It was hard to put down as I ached for nearly every character. They were finely drawn and memorable.

    11. I'm on a bit of a mission now to read all his work, and I really liked this, but his Greenvoe is still my favourite and edges this, which covers a lot of the same territory.

    12. This book wins my award for the most alluring title of all our books so far. Yes, time is a kind of ocean in which we all drown, metaphorically speaking. Of course, George Mackay Brown is an author who uses metaphors and symbols beautifully, as befits a poet. To quote from one of his poems: In the fire of imagesGladly I put my hand.The writing, in one sense (the best sense) is naïve: he seldom uses big words or elaborate sentences, and the plots are never complex. In this book the chapters are [...]

    13. This one was different. Different in form, technique, and subject matter. The writing was good. Lyrical, poetic. But sometimes those flights of fancy got too carried away. The story of a boy who his Orkney island village describes as “Lazy, idle, and useless.” Sound familiar? I liked the boy but the portrait of the village life got dangerously close to the over idealization of the peasants tolstoy espoused. There were occasional glimpses of the village life as squalid, ugly, and sordid. I [...]

    14. Thorfinn Ragnarson is an idle dreamer, the schoolboy son of a subsistence farmer on the invented Orcadian island of Norday, and considered mostly useless by all who know him. Various incidents set off daydreams, in which Thorfinn imagines himself in assorted historical roles – aboard a Viking ship which makes for Byzantium, the squire of a knight on his way to Bannockburn, a member of the people who built the brochs, press-ganged into the English fleet to fight the French republicans… But th [...]

    15. I may be unable to write an entirely objective review of this book because of 3 personal reasons for liking it: 1/I bought it in the gift shop after touring the historical magic of Maes Howe, having spent the morning at Skara Brae, The Ring of Brodgar and The Stones of Stenness; 2/I, like Thorfinn Ragnarson, am a daydreamer and poet, excited by a recent discovery that one of my Norwegian Viking ancestors may have descended from the first Earldom of the Orkneys, ancestors Thorfinn, given his name [...]

    16. Nothing really beats the beautiful way that George Mackay Brown put words together. There's a quote on the back of the book: "If an aspiring writer came to me and asked me how to tell a story, plot a book, round a character, make dialogue sing and whisper and bellow, I would say: Read George Mackay Brown." (Peter Tinniswood). In many ways, Mr Tinniswood absolutely nails it (how GMB describes the land, the sea, the weather: be still my heart) - however it's the 'plot a book' that borders on the d [...]

    17. If the Orkney Isles were an independent nation (don't laugh; some Orcadians still think of their little archipelago as separate from Scotland, though it's more than 600 years since Scotland bought them from Norway) -- if the Orkneys were a nation, George Mackay Brown would be its national bard. A poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, short story writer and novelist, Brown published some 50 books before his death in 1996. In prose, it seems to me his preferred form is short stories, and this no [...]

    18. A rewarding novel, but with quite a few chapters that are hard to get through. It does give you a good idea on what life was like in the pre-World War II Orkney Islands of Scotland, and how the war changed them. The author centers the book around young Thorfinn Ragnarson, who daydreams about the past, including being on a Viking ship that travels to the Byzantine Empire and going to the Battle of Bannockburn with a knight who wants to fight with Robert the Bruce. He winds up in a German prisoner [...]

    19. [rating = C]This book was hard to get into, mainly because the story took the form of mini-stories, but not until the end did I learn the meaning. The whole beginning is used to make a point that technology can be harmful and that old generations need to get used to things slowly. A dreamer, Thorfinn becomes a very stable, though poor, man who writes what he dreams. A point that becomes apparent with each new tale is that nothing will last, all is but a memory and will soon be forgotten. This ha [...]

    20. The novel is centered on a boy called Thorfinn Ragnarson, a daydreaming son of a crofter on the fictional island of Norday in the (non fictional) Orkney Isles off the north coast of Scotland, where the author was born and lived most of life. It’s Scottish in tone, somewhat poetical in rhythm, drawing on Scottish history both ancient and modern and the mythology of the region. It’s a chronicle of the islands but also partly about literature, how a writer combines knowledge, skill and the ‘i [...]

    21. George Mackay Brown was a unique stylist. Like all of his books this is suffused with Orcadian folklore. This one tells the story of an idle dreamer through his historical reveries, which enable Brown to talk about many different periods in the history of the Orkneys and Scotland. A very enjoyable, unique book.

    22. This book is beautifully written - full of poetic imagery. It weaves the dreams of Thorfinn with a portrait of life on a remote Orkney island. Some of Thorfinn's dreams entertained me more than others. Mostly I enjoyed the descriptions of the characters, landscapes, gossip and little incidents of Scottish crofting life.

    23. I really wanted to like this. I didn't. It had occasional flickers of charm and delight but it felt less of a coherent piece than it should. Disappointing. Three stars feels excessively generous, two stars seems unreasonably harsh. But to say I enjoyed it would be misleading.

    24. Can get a bit confusing but the Scottish setting is fantastic, descriptions are amazing, the main character is a bit wishwashy but the idea of the dream vision within the novel is interesting and carries the story in the weaker moments.

    25. The story of a Thorfinn, a daydreaming boy everyone was sure would amount to nothing. Alternating between his current life and flights of fancy, this was a very satisfying book. It gives us a slice of Scottish life prior to and following WWII. I found the ending very satisfying.

    26. Magical, lyrical, breathtaking are the words that spring to mind as I reluctantly close this book about an Orkney boy whose vivid imagination is inspired by the history of the island he calls home.

    27. Time and place resound in his work, and this is a masterpiece. Reminds me of another Celt, Seamus Heaney, in how man's place is temporary and land and sea are the constants.

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