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These two long stories are set, like most of George Mackay Brown's work, in Orkney and in a period, the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when the pattern of island life, little changed since Viking times, was beginning to be threatened. The Golden Bird tells the story of the slow decline of an island community: a scattered village dependant on the sea for its livelihood and at risk from it, a place subject to the peculiar tensions of isolation and the unsettling influence of new values. The Life and Death of John Voe looks at the life of a typical young Orkney man: after whaling and sailing and gold-mining he comes home to devote the rest of his days to a beautiful country girl. These stories are the creation of a very rich imagination, of a practised and skilful writer, but they also have the power and simplicity of the traditional ballad. They will delight Mackay Brown's fans.
George Mackay Brown was one of the major Scottish literary figures of the twentieth century - a prolific poet and novelist, he took much of his inspiration from the myths and landscape of Orkney, and also from his deep Catholic faith. He was born in Orkney in 1921 and died there in 1996. Following his first book in 1954 he published many more, including plays, novels and poems. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has set much of his work to music. In 1988 he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Golden Bird. In 1994 his Beside the Ocean of Time was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and judged Book of the Year by the Saltire Society.