Bruce and Wallace – Warts and All!
😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Set in the turbulent period of Scottish history of Wallace and Bruce, this book gives an unvarnished and unromanticised picture of the still almost barbarian life in Scotland then. No great patriots here, fighting for independence. The picture instead is of a group of scheming aristocrats, plotting how best to gain more land and wealth for themselves, and willing to destroy both the land and the common people to achieve their ends. Willing also to side with Edward, the English king, against their fellow Scots whenever they thought they could gain by it.
I found the early part of this book difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the main protagonists are sometimes called by their name, sometimes their title and sometimes a nickname – for instance, there are two John Comyns, both known as Lord of Badenoch, one nicknamed the Red Comyn and the other the Black Comyn. Frequent reference to the list of characters at the back of the book can help here. Secondly, the author emphasises early on the fact that there were several languages in use at the time, Norman French, English, various Scots dialects and some Latin thrown in for good measure. This is important because it emphasises the class divides in society and the fact that the aristocracy had more in common with their English counterparts than with the Scottish people. However, sometimes the way the author handles this early on can be clumsy and irritating.
But stick with it, it’s worth it. As my reading ‘ear’ got tuned in to the author’s voice, I found the writing had sometimes an almost lyrical quality and a distinctive speech pattern reminiscent of the way English is spoken today in the Highlands. The book seems pretty historically accurate to me (having studied this period a little myself) and for anyone who knows only the ‘Flower of Scotland’ myth of Bruce and Wallace could be a real eye-opener. The murder plot that the book is hung on is really incidental – the interest of this book is in the history of the politics and society it portrays. An excellent read – I will certainly be looking out for the next in the series.
NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.