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Neil Gunn: Second Sight

This book is a bit of a change for Gunn. The second sight of the title refers to the idea of clairvoyance, seeing the future. Early in the book, two of the characters – Alick, a stalker, and George, one of the hunting gents – see four of their number carrying a body. They are not sure who the body is but they have their suspicions that it might be Geoffrey Smith, one of the hunting gents. The book is set primarily in a hunting lodge in the Highlands, where Sir John and Lady Marway are entertaining hunting guests. The action mainly revolves around the issue of second sight and hunting deer. Gunn has read An Experiment with Time by J W Dunne, a book published in 1927 and wildly popular at the time. The book deals with clairvoyance and dreams and makes interesting reading, though it naturally seems very dated. All the characters are fascinated by the issue and wonder whether it will come true and who will be the one to die. Unfortunately it is fairly obvious.

The other issue is hunting. Most of the party is interested in hunting for fun but Smith has to prove himself a man and, to do so, he intends killing the large stag, King Brude, even if he kills himself in doing so. Oh! Have I given away the plot? Sorry. The upstairs-downstairs, native-intruder issue, a favourite theme of Gunn’s, is also to the fore, with the moody Alick doing his bit for the repressed Highlanders. But, unless you are into clairvoyant mysteries, you might find this one of Gunn’s less successful efforts.

Publishing history

First published 1940 by Faber and Faber