Electric Brae: A Modern Romance by Andrew Greig
Andrew Greig is a Scottish author and poet who was born in Bannockburn, Scotland on 23 September 1951. He grew up in Anstruther in Fife. He attended The University of Edinburgh where he read Philosophy. Greig is also a former Writing Fellow of Glasgow University. He and his wife, the author Lesley Glaister now have homes in Edinburgh and Orkney.
Electric Brae: A Modern Romance is the only book written by Andrew Grieg that I have read. It was his first novel and was published in 1992. The book was shortlisted for the McVitie’s Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. The author is a critically acclaimed writer. The Electric Brae is known locally as Croy Brae is a gravity hill in Ayrshire, Scotland, where cars appear to be drawn uphill by some mysterious attraction when in in fact the senstion is an optical illusion. The term ‘Electric’ dates from a time when it was incorrectly thought to be a phenomenon caused by electric or magnetic attraction within the Brae. There is this slope of 1 in 86 upwards from the bend to the Glen, the configuration of the land on either side of the road provides an optical illusion making it look as if the slope is going the other way. Therefore, a stationary car on the road with the brakes off will appear to move slowly uphill. I was delighted to learn the place really exists. It is not far from where I now live. However, unfortunately, I really did not enjoy this story.
The book is set in Scotland and some of the Scottish words used may throw those not familiar with Scottish dialect. The descriptions are beautifully written and Greig’s poetic gifts are evident there. In many ways it is a very Scottish novel, at its centre is the crumbling seastack of the Old Man of Hoy and there are vivid descriptions of the hills and mountains and climbing.
However, it is hard to describe the book. It is billed as a romance, but I did not find much true romance in it. The story deals with ever swapping relationships amongst a quartet of friends in the Thatcher era. The story is told from the point of view of Jimmy, a climber, engineer and North Sea rough neck who works offshore on an oil rig. This is a complicated story of two couples, their love triangles and the ups and downs of their relationships.
The love of Jimmy’s life is a younger artist, Kim, who struggles with a dark past and staying out of mental institutions. Kim is cold, passionate talented and secretive. The book is also about the love between friends, both male and female, as well as the relationship of fathers with their kids.
The writing is exemplary: I just did not enjoy the story in Electric Brae.