The Green Isle of the Great Deep is a sequel to Young Art and Old Hector (1942), one of Neil M. Gunns many novels glorifying boyhood, set in the Scottish Highlands crofting communities. Elements of both Christian and Celtic mysticism inform the earlier work, and in The Green Isle of the Great Deep, a young boy and old man decidedly enter a mythic realm. Through their efforts—and with last-minute assistance from God” paradise is rescued from encroaching totalitarianism.
The novel begins naturalistically with a conversation among members of a small Highland community, gathered around a hearth during World War II. Provoked by newspaper reports touching on concentration camps, they anxiously discuss the idea of “breaking minds,” that is, the forcible indoctrination to a set of beliefs known to later generations as brainwashing. The conflict that propels the plot is thus introduced.
That conflict is allegorized once the protagonists, Old Hector Macdonald and young Art Macrae, enter the Green Isle of the Great Deep (the name of the Celtic land of the dead). While initiating Art into the practice of poaching along the river, Hector plunges with him into the water, recapitulating Gunns experience of nearly drowning, described in his autobiography as a “dream lying between life and death.” The companions find themselves in an idyllic landscape whose inhabitants seem strangely hollow.
The newcomers are...
(The entire section is 538 words.)