'A twelvemonth and a day' by Christopher Rush

'A twelvemonth and a day' was first published in 1985 and is a semi-autobiographical account of the first 12 years of a boy's life. It is about the golden days before experience imposes itself and limits exploration of the world.

The book's author, Christopher Rush, was born in St Monans in 1944. His archive is now held in the National Library of Scotland's manuscript collections.

A love song and lament

In the book Rush writes of a youth spent in the fields and on the shore deciphering the kirkyard graves or listening to eerie tales of the sea. It has been called a love song and lament for the vanished 'slow old tuneful times' of life in the fishing villages in the East Neuk of Fife. In 1988 it was also made into a successful film, 'Venus Peter' with the screenplay co-written by Rush.

Insight into the author's writing process

This resource looks at sources in the Rush archive, video interviews with the author and related items. They provide an insight into his writing and a glimpse into the vanished way of life he portrays in the book.

Source 1 looks at how important the location or setting is to the story. Sources 2-4 examine the author's writing process in selected chapters. Source 5 looks at how the work was received after publication. Source 6 looks at different interpretations of the subject matter through film and other mediums. Source 7 looks at the role of creativity and imagination in the author's work.

Each source has suggested questions for discussion which are mapped to the Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes in Literacy and English for fourth level.

Summary of the book

This synopsis has been taken from the Penguin edition: 'In childhood there is no distinction between boy, bird, mammal or fish. 'A twelvemonth and a day' is about change and growth, the fluctuating patterns in the worklife of a fishing and farming community throughout the cycle of a year, and about the year itself, the life of nature. It tells of how that symbolic year-and-a-day can be destroyed by forces we cannot seem to control — ignorance and greed, profit and loss, the wider forces of politics that damage communities and individuals. It is both a lament for a past time and a celebration of its vanished values.'

Writing style

The book has been described as having 'a lyricism that relies on a degree of alliteration which is more associated with an oral tradition often found in myth'.

Many seafaring epics and tales have a long tradition of grand mythic scenes and characters. It could be said that Rush is also trying to create larger than life myths around his characters.

As you browse through these pages, you can get a sense of how the author has attempted to achieve this.


Source and activity 1



Literature and Language main page


Christopher Rush in the Library's collections

For information on how to access the Christopher Rush archive, see our Manuscripts enquiry page.


Ordnance Survey 1957 map of St Monans and surrounding area including the old railway line.


A wide collection of other xmaps of the East Neuk of Fife are also available to view on the Maps of Scotland sheet viewer.


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