Although the story is told in the third person, events are seen from Chris' perspective. The narrator is clearly an anonymous member of the Kinraddie community who thrives on gossip and exhibits some limited and even prejudiced opinions.
This can be seen in the Prelude. When describing Ellison, who ran the Kinraddie estate, the narrator comments that
you heard he ran a hantle more silver into his own pouch than he ran into theirs [the trustees of the estate]. Well you might expect it, for once he'd been no more than a Dublin waiter...
The narrator enjoys passing on gossip while at the same time distancing himself or herself from it by adding a proviso such as
but folk would say anything.
Throughout the novel, the narrative constantly switches from this narrative stance to the mind of Chris.
In 'Harvest', after the outbreak of the war, one paragraph ends
Maybe, you know, there was something in what [Long Rob] said, coarse devils though most of the Germans were and the next begins
But Chris didn't, care, sitting there at Blawearie with young Ewan at her breast, her man beside her....
As well as the frequent references to her thoughts, the references to 'mother' and 'father' when talking of John and Jean, are further evidence of Chris' voice.
In The Epilude the focus moves away from Chris. We now seem to view her from outside rather than inside and the tone is more neutral, with less sense of the gossipy crony of the Prelude.
Gibbon effectively captures the voice of the narrator by using at least three different language devices.
Sentence structure: the sentences tend to be lengthy, often joined together with 'and' or with commas where full stops would normally be used. This conveys the idea of a constant stream of talk and makes the narrative move quickly.
Gibbon has been particularly successful in making the story sound as if it is spoken rather than written, capturing what he described as the 'rhythms and cadence' of the way his characters speak. This point can be illustrated from almost any page of the novel.
The second person: The frequent use of 'you' makes the reader feel more involved in the story and helps us to share Chris' feelings. Here is one of many examples: after Ewan has changed and has returned to the war, Chris takes comfort in the rhythm of farm work and we are told:
you could keep at peace with the land if you gave it your heart and hands.
This is the narrator expressing a thought which has a general application to everyone, but at the same time it is an expression of Chris' personal feelings. Literary critics have called this technique the 'self-referring you'.
The use of Scots words: In Gibbon's own words these are
untranslatable except in their context and setting. These add to the realism of the dialogue, though Gibbon has been careful to make the story comprehensible to readers who are not familiar with the language.
The constant transitions from the point of view of the narrator to that of Chris can sometimes be quite complex and merge imperceptibly into each other, as in this passage from the description of Chris' wedding:
She heard a whisper she'd have all her work cut out looking after him, coarse among the queans he was, Ewan Tavendale. But she didn't care, she knew it a lie, Ewan was hers and hers only.