Folksy anecdotes about community life on the Hebridean island of Papavray.
In 1970, MacLeod visited the remote Scottish island with her husband and two youngest sons and decided to stay, having grown tired of their congested and cramped life in London. The author threads comparisons between country and city living throughout the book, and she describes the natural beauty of the “wild, exposed” island in luscious detail, making readers feel present in the narrative. MacLeod quickly immersed herself in the life of the island, which, lacking technology, relied more on the "jungle telegraph" to communicate important news than it did on the three telephones. Since the population of Papavray was so small, her neighbors quickly become recurring and familiar characters in her stories. Some of the tales are lighthearted and funny—e.g., a dog's appearance in the middle of a wedding ceremony or her husband's first attempt at shearing sheep. Others, like the story of a long-neglected woman on a nearby island, are tragic and horrifying. Though she clearly loves the island and its people dearly, MacLeod does not romanticize life on Papavray, and she explains the violent history of the 18th- and 19th-century Highland Clearances and the grim economic reality of declining populations. At the end of the book, however, the author does not provide an explanation of how her family eventually came to leave Papavray; having grown to know and love the nurse and her neighbors, it would be nice to know the reasons for their parting. Nevertheless, the book is a lovely account of ordinary people thriving in an extraordinary landscape.
Cozy and chatty, these stories offer an intriguing glimpse into life as a nurse on a remote Scottish island.