by Rosemary Sutcliff
Well, Rosemary Sutcliff did it again. In her marvellous way, she spun a beautiful and tragic story out of a fairly obscure historical event. In this case it was the life of John Graham of Claverhouse, also known as Bonnie Dundee. He was Scottish and loyal to James II and VII even after the Glorious Revolution. The story is told from the point of view of Hugh Herriot, his follower and servant. Dundee himself emerges as an extremely likable figure, but Hugh’s own story is just as fascinating. Although the period (1670s-80s, roughly) is much later than most of Sutcliff’s books, she displays the same grasp of the historical events as well as personalities. I always enjoy her detailed and loving descriptions of the countryside and Dundee certainly delivered on this. In addition, she was able to catch the Scottish voice without resorting to unreadable dialect a la George MacDonald.
As a side note, I looked up John Graham on Wikipedia while reading the book, which was a mistake, so don’t do it. Anyway, it turns out that he was descended from Richard III, who happens to be one of my favorite Misunderstood Historical Figures*, which just made me love him even more.
There are some mentions of ‘second sight’ and that sort of thing in the book, but really it’s so small that I don’t think you’d be justified in skipping it because of that.
Book source: Inter-library loan
*see The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey