- Doug Johnstone
- 19 December 2006
Hellfire and Herring (Profile)
Christopher Rush’s previous work has been widely acclaimed with his travelogue-memoir To Travel Hopefully being lauded on publication last year, and his novel, A Twelvemonth and a Day, making it into this publication’s 100 Best Scottish Books of All Time. But, while Rush can obviously write a beautiful lyrical sentence, there is something about this memoir of his childhood in the East Neuk of Fife in the 40s and 50s which fails to ring true.
Much of Hellfire and Herring reads somehow too much like fiction, as if Rush is too much in love with the idea of his deprived but ultimately happy childhood. There is much in the way of cliché as well; the hellfire church sermons, the old women with second sight, the terrible power of the sea and the hardy lives of the fishermen, even the abusive father. OK, so it was Rush’s childhood, but this oddly sentimental, rose-tinted depiction is a little hard to stomach.