The Heart is Highland is a moving month-by-month account of a child's life growing up in Glen Urquhart near Loch Ness in the 1930s and 1940s. With affection and humour, and an eye for detail, Maisie Steven gently reminds us of some of the joys of her childhood that we have lost in today's modern world. Here are the delights of an outdoor life denied to so many children today: the beauty of the first snowdrops and primroses, the cheeping of chicks, raspberry picking and rambling across the fields and hills of the glen. Here too are the good wholesome meals: porridge and preserves, pies and puddings, and home-grown vegetables, eaten at the table with family and friends, that traditionally constituted the Scots diet but have been replaced by convenience foods. And here is the strong sense of community, backed by the institutions of family, church and school, that underpinned the village way of life: ploughing matches, Sunday School picnics at Urquhart Castle and the Gaelic Mod music festival. Yet all this is not seen through rose-tinted spectacles - the hardships of life for some in those days are vividly recalled as well.
The whole is a delightful book that has become a best-seller and is sure to appeal to many more readers in this new edition. As an insight into a way of life that has been largely lost, but from which we can learn valuable lessons about how we might improve our lives today, it will strike a chord with all who read it.
Maisie Steven has lived in Scotland all her life, and has always shown a keen interest in the social history of Scotland. In 1995 she contributed to Parish Life in 18th Century Scotland, published by Scottish Cultural Press.