Gone are the Leaves by Anne Donovan - part 2

published 2014

‘The colours are so beautiful,’ she cried, ‘But which to choose for my little songbird?’

My Lady looked at him. ‘Mon Petit, you should be in scarlet and gold but somehow I feel it will not suit. Yet you cannot dress like this.’

Feilamort aye wore browns and greys, failzit colours that meant he was barely noticed.

My mither gied a slight nod towards me. My Lady, as if she hadna seen this, exclaimed ‘Deirdre, you have an eye, you chose beautiful colours for my little daughter. What do you suggest?’

I picked a velvet between grey and cream. ‘This is doocolourit and I think t’will brighten his skin.’ I held it up and its soft and gentle tone suited him weel. ‘And I can broider the tunic with blue and green and flashes of crimpson, so it will make it vieve.’

I curtsied. ‘If My Lady approves.’

She nodded and turned to my mither. ‘I do.’


*** ADDED LATER:  Canongate, the publishers of this truly excellent book, have made a longer extract available - you can find it here ***

This new book gave the blog an Easter entry, which also explains the use of language, and why you shouldn’t let the unfamiliar words put you off.

Deirdre, the narrator of this part of the book, is a young embroiderer working for a grand family in Scotland at some non-specified time, but maybe the 1400s. Feilamort is a pageboy with a beautiful singing voice, and he and Deirdre are great friends. When you first start reading it, it is not at all clear what kind of book it is at all: at first I thought it was a children’s book, but it most certainly is not. I’ve seen it described as a fairytale, but it’s not that either. And it’s one of those books where it is much better not to know what is going to happen: I had no idea, and kept getting big surprises. Just when you get used to Deirdre as narrator, other voices start intervening and explaining more of the complex plot.

The writing is beautiful: ‘With the passing of time, even the sharpest-eyed seamstress would find her gaze pearl ower like a misty morn.’ And: ‘the mess of a baby is preferable to the cleanness of a cauld bed.’ And the descriptions of Deirdre’s embroidery work are enthralling.

Anne Donovan is someone who should be much better known. Earlier entries on her here and here.

The top picture, from The Athenaeum website, is by Jacob van Oost the Elder.

The young boy (who is in red and gold) was a young German Emperor from the early 1500s.

The group of people is a 14th century picture from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Embroidery eh.....my heart skipped a couple of beats and my pulse is racing. Moira - stop it! A bit too close to the edge for me I'm afraid - something more sedate tomorrow please.........off for a lie-down now.

    1. This is a bit over-exciting for you, I know, I'll try to dial things down the rest of the week.

  2. Moira - I know I mentioned this when you first discussed this on your blog, but I just love that use of dialect. It really places the reader. And those descriptions are lyrical. I know what you mean too about books where you start out with no real idea of the sort of book it is and what's going to happen. That doesn't always work well, but sometimes it's really effective. I think it can draw the reader in.

    1. The dialect gives a lovely lilting tone to the book, and you with your great interest in language would find it particularly intriguing I think.

  3. I know you say the dialect is not a detractor but I am not so sure how I would like it. The story does sound interesting and it will be available here soon. Maybe I will try it some time.

    1. I am honestly not very patient with dialect sometimes, it can put me off a book. But this writer is SO good, I would read anything by her.


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