I’ve been enjoying having time to read again, and these two below have had very different effects on me.
Firzroy Maclean’s West Highland Tales is a collection of stories from an area I know well, and indeed some of my ancestors feature in the pages. The stories are a mix of the fantastic, witches and fairies, and of actual events, both passed through the generations as told by the Seanachie, a Highland Bard.
I love being Scottish, the country itself and its heritage and pure gold, but it’s the nature of some of that heritage that’s turned us all into damages cases, and this book is very strong evidence for the prosecution.
I initially bought it to learn some new tales to tell Holly at bedtime, she loves that stuff, but after a page or two, I could see this was going to be for my eyes only. Everybody murders, or at the very least mutilates everybody else, all the time. If they don’t then they’re cursed or banished. if by some quirk of fate a character survives the author gleefully adds a footnote to tell you that the character actually was murdered/mutilated/banished in real life after the events in the story.
If the other clans didn’t get you, your wife/husband would or your first-born would put you to the sword to claim your estate.
Seriously, I had Joycee leaping out of bed looking for the fire by shouting “Nooo!!!” at 2am when the happy Highland couple were slaughtered in the last line of the story yet again.
But, it’s a great book, hugely entertaining and a real insight to the times where the stories all come from, 1000-1800-ish. Life was hard, the threat of an imminent violent death must have weighed on every single soul in those days, answers were sought and the blame given to the supernatural, the other clans, nearby foreign nationals and very often, a wummin.
Worth a read, just don’t expect a lot of happy endings.
Jules Vernes The Underground City is an adventure set in the coal mines under the Trossachs!
Verne visited Scotland in 1859 and toured from Edinburgh to Glasgow to Loch Lomond and back the the east via the Trossachs and Stirling. He was so inspired by the journey he wrote this story based in the places he visited, and it’s just great fun to read.
Everything is fiction here, there is no coal, but Verne builds a world where people live and work in a vast network of huge caverns and tunnels that stretch from Aberfoyle to the west coast. You can walk under the River Clyde, see the vast columns of rock that support Ben Lomond, and if you’re the baddie, drain the contents on a loch into the mine…
The foreword is stupid, it gives away lots of plot points, so if you get the book, skip it. It’s a good translation, so you don’t need someone to hold your hand to get through the pages.
It’s a larger than life romp, full of drama, tension and even some romance, all set in places where we visit tea-shops. I love the speech, it’s all hands-on-hips exclamations, well spoken in the queens English. Aye, it’s Victorian, but it still made me grin all the way.
Verne was a man ahead of his time, his books are full of him picking up the knowledge or technology of the day and extrapolating where it might go and then using that. Proper science fiction. Magic.