BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Cone Gatherers | india | Hindustan Times
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BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Cone Gatherers

Set during the Second World War in an idyllic Scottish estate, the story revolves around two brothers employed to pick cones, and the hatred of the gamekeeper towards them.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 13:28 IST

The Cone Gatherers
Robin Jenkins
Price — £ 7.99
Publication — Canongate Classics

Every once in a while I come across a book so eloquent in its presence that it is hard to understand how I could not have heard of it earlier. Most of these are classics, written years before we were born.

And yet even today they retain their freshness and their unique flavour and relevance that refuses to die. The Cone Gatherers by Scottish author Robin Jenkins is one such book.

Set during the Second World War in an idyllic Scottish estate, the story revolves around two brothers employed to pick cones, and the hatred of the gamekeeper towards them.

The story is the proof, in many ways, of the propensity in humans for acute kindness and devastating hatred. But had the story been all about this alone then it might not have achieved the exalted status it enjoys today. Indeed The Cone Gatherers have been accepted by critics as being one of the foremost and most important pieces of post war Scottish literature.

Yet despite being set in the times of the war, it talks little of it. Instead its silence on the issue is what is so striking that it renders the same as being inescapable.

The idyllic life of the cone gatherers on the estate, removed from the hatred and bloodshed of fanaticism of the bloodied fields of Europe is a resounding reminder of the world beyond.

And yet within this idyllic grounds lies a hatred that is equal to what is being displayed in the world beyond. The areas of class conflict and religious hypocrisy rears its ugly head to confront the cone gatherers.

What is amazing about this book is how contemporary it seems to be. Removed far from the present times, yet it appears as fresh as it ever was.

There is a certain fragrance about this work that lingers long after the final pages have been turned.