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Background

A Scots Quair

Sunset Song is the first book in a trilogy [triology: Three pieces of work which are connected by theme, collectively entitled 'A Scots Quair [quair: An old Scots word meaning book'. The trilogy can be seen as representing the development of Scottish social history in the early twentieth century.

Sunset Song is based on a peasant community who make their living from the land. However, by the end of the novel, the land has been impoverished by the war, and people are less willing to do the hard manual labour required. The novel follows the character of Chris Guthrie, from girlhood to being a young widow with a child, contemplating her second marriage to the new minister, Robert Colquhoun, the son of the old man who had so impressed her with his sermon on The Golden Age.

The second book in the trilogy, Cloud Howe, sees Robert and Chris moving to the small town of Segget where Robert is minister. This mirrors the move of Scots away from the land to the towns.

The third book, Grey Granite, sees Chris, again a widow, move to the fictional large city of Duncairn (a composite of Aberdeen and other Scottish industrial cities). In this novel, Chris runs a boarding house and becomes a minor character, while her son, young Ewan Tavendale, takes the major role as a political activist. Similarly, this book reflects the increasing urbanization of Scotland. Of the three books, Sunset Song has enjoyed the widest popularity.

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