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Beside the Ocean of Time [Hardcover]

Guillermo Verdecchia
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 15 1994
1994 Booker Prizeshort-listed story of Thorfinn Ragnarson's dreams re-living his birthplace

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Brown's sweet coming-of-age novel about a fantasy-prone adolescent growing up in the Orkney Islands just before WWII offers some moving passages and fine, delicate prose but is sabotaged by a paucity of plot and narrative drive. Thorfinn Ragnarson is the daydreaming son of a tenant farmer, avoiding both work and school despite the best efforts of family, friends and neighbors. Instead, the boy dreams up elaborate historical fantasies. In a series of odd yet intriguing chapters, Brown (Vinland) transforms Thorfinn into a Viking traveler, a freedom-fighter for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the colleague of a Falstaffian knight who participates in the Battle of Bannockburn. The author then hurls his protagonist into the future as Thor, who returns to the Orkneys as an adult and recalls his internment in a German POW camp, where he discovered his writing skills. Thor also reflects on the history of the islands, the links between dreaming and writing and the whims of fate. Brown's lyrical descriptions and gift for local color capture the flavor of the Orkneys (where he was born), but his thin and choppy story line undermines this otherwise worthwhile effort.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Guillermo Verdecchia is a writer, director, and actor whose work has been seen and heard across Canada and around the world. The author or co-author of, among auther works, Fronteras Americanas, The Noam Chomsky Lectures (with Daniel Brooks), and A Line in the Sand (with Marcus Youssef), he is a recipient of the Fovernor General’s Literary Award for Drama, a four-time winner of the Chalmers Canadian Play Award, as well as a recipient of Dora, Jessie, and sundry film festival awards.


Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Memory: the economy of experience July 17 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I spent 10 days in June 2009 trekking over the Orkney Islands and heard from many folks that I should read George MacKay Brown's work. "beside the Ocean in Time" is the second title I read. I was enthralled by the glimpses that MacKay Brown gives of the history, archeology,flora and fauna, and the people. My treasured memories of the recent trip were reinforced by the tales he created and there were many times that I smiled at the tapestry he wove.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT March 22 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This novel indicates how much Brown was a master of language and imagery. He is equally effective at capturing magical flights of fancy and the ceaseless destruction of modern society. The tension between modern society and the traditional community has a global relevance that makes the story universal. The story would be just as poignant in Africa as it is in Brown's Orkney. A truly remarkable work that well deserved being Shortlisted for the Booker prize
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Format:Hardcover
The first half of this novel is completely engrossing. Young Thorfinn Ragnar takes occurences from his everyday life and from these common threads weaves beautiful stories in his imagination. Of course, no one in the real world realizes the importance of these dreams, or how gifted Thorfinn is at weaving tales, and therefore he is dismissed as an "idle, useless boy." In the second half of the book, the story takes place in the real world, abandoning the accounts of Thorfinn's imaginary worlds, and it is here that the novel loses a bit of its charm. The novel is still a beautifully-written novel, and I'm very glad I had the chance to read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a worthy finalist for the 1994 Booker Prize Jan. 24 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
George Mackay Brown placed an "idle, worthless child" in a boat to look at Time and mold and meld it with his young eyes. Thorfinn Ragnarson is the boy that sails in and out of his own world of Norday in the Orkney Islands of the 1930's. He takes the people of Norday and travels with them into ancestral pasts that far outstrip their solid, predictable day to day lives. When old Jacob Olafson dies, Thorfinn stops at the kirkyard on his way home from school. The Old Testament words, heard just the day before, ring with the gravediggers spade: "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." and Thorfinn builds a life for this old man. He brings baby Jacob across the sea to Norday, sees Jacob the young man board the Hudson's Bay ship, Windward, to journey to the "land of Eskimos and Indians" and return in ten years with an Indian wife. Real time runs its thread of laughter, solid Orkney logic and unexpected colour in the persons of Isa Esquoy, the small, constantly squeaking postmistress-storekeeper, Albert Laird, the joiner who crafts cradles and coffins, Mr. Simon, the droning, long-suffering schoolmaster and the Reverend Hector Drummond, a somewhat muddled minister whose mystery visitor, Sophie, appears in the homes of solitary folks and leaves a trail of laughter and love. Thorfinn, the adolescent, is stricken with an un-dying love for Sophie which surfaces only after the fields, barns and livlihoods of Norday are smothered under the necessary adjustments of war. Before that war, Thorfinn, the young man, still a solitary creature, had conjured the seal-people and spun love, marriage and dream-children from the sounds and silences of the sea. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a worthy finalist for the 1994 Booker Prize Jan. 23 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
George Mackay Brown placed an "idle, worthless child" in a boat to look at Time and mold and meld it with his young eyes. Thorfinn Ragnarson is the boy that sails in and out of his own world of Norday in the Orkney Islands of the 1930's. He takes the people of Norday and travels with them into ancestral pasts that far outstrip their solid, predictable day to day lives. When old Jacob Olafson dies, Thorfinn stops at the kirkyard on his way home from school. The Old Testament words, heard just the day before, ring with the gravediggers spade: "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." and Thorfinn builds a life for this old man. He brings baby Jacob across the sea to Norday, sees Jacob the young man board the Hudson's Bay ship, Windward, to journey to the "land of Eskimos and Indians" and return in ten years with an Indian wife. Real time runs its thread of laughter, solid Orkney logic and unexpected colour in the persons of Isa Esquoy, the small, constantly squeaking postmistress-storekeeper, Albert Laird, the joiner who crafts cradles and coffins, Mr. Simon, the droning, long-suffering schoolmaster and the Reverend Hector Drummond, a somewhat muddled minister whose mystery visitor, Sophie, appears in the homes of solitary folks and leaves a trail of laughter and love. Thorfinn, the adolescent, is stricken with an un-dying love for Sophie which surfaces only after the fields, barns and livlihoods of Norday are smothered under the necessary adjustments of war. Before that war, Thorfinn, the young man, still a solitary creature, had conjured the seal-people and spun love, marriage and dream-children from the sounds and silences of the sea. We thank you, George Mackay Brown, for those brief voyages that are the lives of men and for the whispers of melody from that "music that goes on and on, all the way from before the beginning till after the end."
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look into the Imagination of an "Idle, Useless Boy" Jan. 21 2000
By Lauryn Angel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The first half of this novel is completely engrossing. Young Thorfinn Ragnar takes occurences from his everyday life and from these common threads weaves beautiful stories in his imagination. Of course, no one in the real world realizes the importance of these dreams, or how gifted Thorfinn is at weaving tales, and therefore he is dismissed as an "idle, useless boy." In the second half of the book, the story takes place in the real world, abandoning the accounts of Thorfinn's imaginary worlds, and it is here that the novel loses a bit of its charm. The novel is still a beautifully-written novel, and I'm very glad I had the chance to read it.
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but not exciting June 13 2014
By Nicholas Rega - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 hard reality is made when Thorfinn is unable to write his last book; he is unable to dream like when he was young. You are not a child forever
5.0 out of 5 stars Broad sweeping poetic epic April 26 2014
By Richard Druitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book. George Mackay Brown reminds us that dreaming lads, far from being idle, may in fact be conjuring poetic epics. As we follow them we learn a great deal about the Orkneys, the history of Scotland, and ourselves. It has a haunting signature that carries the winds of simple truth in its sails. I advise you to read it.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece Jan. 6 2014
By a reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
George Mackay Brown, poet and storyteller, was an absolutely brilliant writer. Here he brings readers into a magical world, where past and present mingle in the mind of a young boy. This is not "historical fiction," nor is it an adventure story; and readers who demand fast-moving plot will be disappointed. Instead, the book moves at the leisurely pace of life in the Orkney islands in the early twentieth century, where the story is set. If you are willing to surrender your imagination to a writer whose skill with words is equalled by his mastery of the art of storytelling--and by storytelling, I mean oral storytelling, not the techniques of contemporary fiction--then you're in for a real treat.
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