No Great Mischief

No Great Mischief

4.01 (7,961 ratings by Goodreads)
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In 1779, driven out of his home, Calum MacDonald sets sail from the Scottish Highlands with his extensive family. After a long, terrible journey he settles his family in 'the land of trees', and eventually they become a separate Nova Scotian clan: red-haired and black-eyed, with its own identity, its own history. It is the 1980s by the time our narrator, Alexander MacDonald, tells the story of his family, a thrilling and passionate story that intersects with history: with Culloden, where the clans died, and with the 1759 battle at Quebec that was won when General Wolfe sent in the fierce Highlanders because it was 'no great mischief if they fall'.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 20mm | 117.93g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0099283921
  • 9780099283928
  • 91,744

Review quote

"You will find scenes from this majestic novel burned into your mind forever" -- Alice Munro "One of the great undiscovered writers of our time" -- Michael Ondaatje "The novel is close to being a masterpiece. The characters, the light and the weather, the story itself - its beautiful tone and shape, its harsh and melancholy music - stay with you for days afterwards. The novel is simply breathtaking in its emotional range" -- Colm Toibin Irish Times "Exceptional... The book is pervaded by the humour and colour; intensely vivid, and very, very moving" Independent "Alistair MacLeod is a wonderfully talented writer" -- Margaret Atwoodshow more

Review Text

Alistair McLeod's first novel has catapulted a little-known 'writer's writer', acclaimed for two volumes of short stories, to the top of Canada's bestseller lists, and deservedly so. No Great Mischief reveals McLeod as a major talent, a superb story teller, effortlessly catching the reader's attention, and keeping it with an unusual mix of lyricism and realism. It is narrated by Alexander, a member of the MacDonald clan in the Scots Gaelic of Cape Breton that they still speak. It opens as Alexander, known in his childhood as gille beag ruadh - 'the little red-haired boy' - but now a successful, middle-aged orthodontist, visits a hopeless alcoholic in a seedy rooming house in Toronto - his eldest brother, Calum. Gradually the story of gille beag ruadh, his twin sister, and his three elder brothers, is revealed. The twins were orphaned at the age of three when their parents drowned in icy waters. They are raised by their kindly grandparents, while their older, teenage brothers run wild in the family home. Eventually the brothers establish themselves as miners, and an accident in the family causes Alexander to leave medical school and join them in the mine. This strong family loyalty is explored through dramatic fragments of the history of the MacDonald clan, who are descended from one Calum Ruadh. Calum arrived in Cape Breton in 1779 from the Highlands of Scotland with his large family and the loyal family dog. The clan's story is full of pathos and poetry, and also has richly humorous moments. At intervals, Alexander joins his sister, a prosperous oilman's wife in Calgary, and together they reflect on how the family's history intersects with mainstream history: Culloden, where many MacDonalds died, and the 1759 battle at Quebec, won by General Wolfe, with the help of the Highlanders, whom he recommended as soldiers because it was 'no great mischief if they fall'. This is the story of a family, a hero - big brother Calum - and of a nation - Canada - the result of the integration of numerous minorities such as the clann Chalum Ruaidh, some of whom feature in the novel. It is a major imaginative achievement. (Kirkus UK)show more

About Alistair MacLeod

Alistair MacLeod was born in 1936 and raised in Cape Breton, Nove Scotia. MacLeod is the author of two short story collections, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (1986) and the novel, No Great Mischief, published in 1999. Written over the course of thirteen years, No Great Mischief won numerous Canadian literary awards and the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. All of his published short stories, plus one new piece, were collected in Island, published in 2000. Alistair MacLeod died in more

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7,961 ratings
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4 37% (2,958)
3 19% (1,547)
2 5% (422)
1 2% (134)
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