****The Hills Is Lonely
by Lillian Beckwith
Reviewed November 21, 2001.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2001
E. P. Dutton & Co., 1963. 207 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (914.17 BEC).
In an earlier review, I mentioned that I enjoyed the “English-speaker-moves-to-Southern-Europe
genre.” I’m now going to have to revise the name I’ve given
this type of books to the more general “Experiencing Another Culture
genre.” I realized that I’ve always enjoyed this sort of book,
which includes even the Isobel Kuhn missionary books I read in elementary
school. There’s an inevitable humor that comes up in the chance
to look at yourself through the eyes of another culture, not to mention
the misunderstandings and amazing new experiences. There’s something
eye-opening about learning that “normal” is completely relative.
I believe that reading is an ideal way to learn to see the
world through different people’s perspectives. True stories
of a person plunged into a new culture do that beautifully, and The
Hills Is Lonely,
is no exception.
Lillian Beckwith, a teacher from the north of England, was
told by her doctor to take a complete rest somewhere in the country.
She advertised for a place, and got a response from Morag McDugan
in the Hebrides. “I live by myself and you could have the room
that is not a kitchen and a bedroom reasonable.” A later letter
told her, “Surely its that quiet here even the sheeps themselves on the
hills is lonely and as to the sea its that near I use it myself every
day for the refusals.” Miss Beckwith cannot resist, and ends up
arriving in the Hebrides along with a torrential storm. A rough sea
crossing and a disreputable taxi brought her to her new home, where she
and her luggage were flung over a wall to receive a warm and wonderful
It’s a tribute to Lillian Beckwith’s sense of humor that
she stayed for years, had her rest (?!), experienced the culture and
made warm friends. She also produced a delightful book.
This one is worth tracking down, and some day I want to try her other
two books, which are available on the commonreader.com website. The
copy I read was loaned to me by my knitting buddy. Thanks, Leah!
Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.
All rights reserved.