Electric Brae

Published by Canongate on 15th October 1992

‘You’re not in love’, Gerry said, ‘you’re in a state of dependence. Like this country of yours.’

At the heart of Electric Brae is the evolving relationship between a young artist, Kim – coldly passionate, talented, secretive – and the narrator Jimmy, a North Sea roughneck, engineer and climber, trying now to make a reckoning with the past that’s led them this far.

Ranging from Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish Borders, through passion and sexuality to politics, art and ice-climbing, this story quietly subverts assumptions like the Electric Brae itself.

The novel is neither essentially urban, nor male-centred. Though it deals intimately with desire and loss, it is not obsessive. Here the women act and men react: relationships between them are not doomed from the start. It is a modern romance without heather or hard men.

In turn painful, wry and celebratory, the book follows friends and loves through the 80s. It is an exploration of a culture, an era, and the human heart. In an attic room over the North Sea, with a sleeping child under the eaves, Jimmy leans forward:

In the beginning there were four of us, and the Old Man of Hoy …