Synopses & Reviews
This memoir offers an American woman's uniquely privileged view into the pastoral Scotland of today. By turns funny, heartwarming, and occasionally sad, it is the author's account of her marriage to a Scottish landowner and of the years they spent together at "The Guynd," his large ancestral estate. We follow her steep learning curve in dealing with a grand and crumbling mansion still recovering from the effects of two World Wars, as well as an overgrown landscape, a derelict garden, troublesome tenants, local aristocracy, Scottish rituals, and a husband for whom change is anathema. A son and heir draws the author into an intimate relationship with every tier of the local society, while a visiting American friend heightens the strain of the ever-present culture gap. Alternating between enchantment and despair, Rathbone digs into family and local history in an effort to understand her surroundings and free her husband from the grip of the past. Like a letter home from a strange land, this book offers a view of Scotland not found in the guide books. The tale of the journey through the wrought iron gates and up the long tree-lined drive into the living past is both wry and poignant, both oddball and deeply reflective of the ties that bind us.
"As Rathbone tells it, when she got married it wasn't so much to a man as to his ancestral house in Scotland-the Guynd of the title-and the deeply ingrained way of life that came with it. Her attitude toward the enormous project of restoring the manor while also figuring out and trying to fit in with the clannish Scots is at turns enthusiastic and exasperated, and her anecdotes about the renovation, from massive hedge-trimming and garden rehabilitation to a reupholstering undertaking of gargantuan proportions, will have home improvement fanatics mad with jealousy. The writing is vivid, but unlike in her acclaimed 1995 biography of Walker Evans, Rathbone here leaves out much of her interior life, so the reader witnesses, to varying degrees, her disintegrating marriage and the fervor with which she rehabs the old house, but her reticence to turn her gaze inward hampers any emotional connection with the reader. Thoughtful descriptions of her attempts to understand her Scottish neighbors sometimes distract from this, but for the most part she and the narrative are tied to the Guynd, and the result is as frustrating and fascinating for the reader as the actual experience was for her." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)