Monday, 4 May 2015

Book review - Escape To The Highlands, by Rowena Williamson

The story of a pair of young people fighting to survive after Culloden, Escape To The Highlands, utterly charmed me. Unlike that more common type of historical fiction, where all the action centres around the big ones - the crowned heads and generals, the prime movers of the period, the book follows the journey of a pair of young people orphaned in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.

It would be a grave mistake to assume that historical fiction set around the humbler members of a society, when done well, as this book certainly has been, is any less instructive of the period than one in which the central characters are cabbages and kings. In Escape To The Highlands we see the disarray of the clans after Culloden, and the demoralisation of the Scottish people in its wake, and this is all the more strongly shown when the characters are relatively ordinary people. The coda, where we hear of the prince running off to France with apparently total disregard of his own people, paints a stark picture of the contrast between the great-hearted Scottish people and the selfish cowardice of their unhappy leader.

Historical value aside, the story of young people fighting to preserve life and some future for themselves among the ruins of everything they have known is both exciting and ultimately satisfying. The characters are well drawn and the portrait of the noble Deerhound, Duncan, is as believable as it is beautiful. As any person who has been privileged to associate with one of these most noble dogs knows, there is indeed a touch of magic in a Deerhound, and Ms Williamson has shown this to us with delicate skill.

All in all a wonderful read, on any level, for any age.

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