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SCOTNOTES Study Guides

Naomi Mitchison’s

Moira Burgess

Published in: Paperback.
By: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2004
Price: £5.95
ISBN 978-0-948877-61-2

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Naomi Mitchison was one of the most prolific, skilled and original writers of the twentieth century, whose novels range in setting from prehistory to outer space. Her work displays a breadth of knowledge and a sympathetic understanding for humanity: whatever out time, or our culture, or our beliefs, we are all still very much the same under the skin.

Moira Burgess’s Scotnote covers three of Mitchison’s historical novels: Early in Orcadia, a sequence of stories set in prehistoric Orkney; The Big House, a children’s fantasy of time-travel back to the early nineteenth century; and Travel Light, following a young Viking girl on a magical quest. Each novel is examined, and the plots, and the author’s beliefs and influences, are discussed and explained for senior school pupils and students at all levels.


  • Naomi Mitchison: life and work
  • Early in Orcadia
    • The story/stories of the novel
    • Theme and structure of the novel
    • Setting in geography and prehistory
    • Characters
    • Language
    • Myth and religion
  • The Big House
    • The story of the novel
    • Theme and structure of the novel
    • Characters
    • Setting and language
    • Historical periods
    • Celtic myth and folklore
  • Travel Light
    • The story of the novel
    • The structure of the novel
    • Characters
    • Setting in time and place
    • Themes
    • Norse myth and legend
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography


Last updated 21 October 2010.