Now We Shall Be Entirely Free: The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2019

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Now We Shall Be Entirely Free: The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2019

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free: The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2019

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Over the years, a number of people, me included, have compared the British author Andrew Miller to Hilary Mantel. The main protagonist John Lacroix is possibly the most bland literary character I’ve ever encountered. There is a villain but one gets acquainted with this villain’s childhood, and…well I won’t say anything more because I don’t want to include any spoilers about this book. From its first sentence it grabs the reader's attention, and it never lets go - the narrative is a gripping, propulsive, thrilling ride.

All the book’s perceptions are deftly given to his characters, with the double result that the observations feel peculiarly intimate, and the characters themselves come vividly to life. It sounds like an old name for the river, but I can’t find any evidence it is an actual old name for the river. So we get two plotlines, the one of a destroyed man running away from the past and the two men on a mission. When John finds himself eating in the same hotel bedroom as Emily, Miller describes how: “Hehe could not get the word fucking out of his head. So he travels to the Hebrides in Northern Scotland, but little does he know that the Army have sent two soldiers to hunt him down and make him accountable for his inaction.

A well written mixture of historical novel, adventure story and romance set during the Napoleonic wars, that may have been written with at least half an eye to a possible film adaptation. Miller also intentionally or unintentionally repurposes the My Lai massacre as part of his historical fantasy, even incorporating the names of three court martialed US Army officers. When he recovers, seemingly haunted by what he saw or did in the war, he decides to set out for the far Hebrides to rediscover his sense of himself.

I enjoyed every line, every word of this novel set in 1809 about a soldier, John Lacroix, who has become a deserter. There are some fanciful touches–I liked the description of the two pursuing soldiers walking in the woods with “the war spooling from their backs like silk,” for example. A novel that would not feel out of place in the collected work of Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott or, indeed, alongside William Golding's To the Ends of the Earth trilogy.I have been lucky to have read several brilliant novels recently, and this one will stay with me for a long time. John meets a whole host of memorable characters on the way - my particular favourites were the residents of the Hebrides.

But I admit that Miller’s dating surgical handwashing and glaucoma surgery to the early from the mid-nineteenth century of Semmelweis and von Graefe left me slightly disgruntled. In this work, Lacroix’s hearing has been damaged by the war and Emily is going blind from cataracts.It says something , not quite sure what though, when the charachter chasing the hero is more fascinating than the actual hero. The author has revealed that the plot is derived in part from a terrible incident during the Vietnam War, the massacre at My Lai in 1967. Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. The minor characters are drawn well enough in vignettes, and Emily (the romantic connection) is plausible in that women of that era were severely constrained by propriety and a lack of opportunity.

An atrocity takes place in a Spanish village when English soldiers, retreating in chaos from Napoleon's forces, run amok. For all the world like a profoundly more complex The Thirty-Nine Steps, the novel reconstructs what happens when someone who has always seen themselves as good and law-abiding – in this case John Lacroix, a young commissioned officer and would-be musician from Somerset – is suddenly cast into the role of fugitive.

Well, it's almost as if Mr Miller was afeared that all these delights would not suffice, so he tacked on a thrilling if highly implausible persecution of Our Hero that made it impossible NOT to keep turning those pages until. Now We Shall Be Entirely Free is a novel of delicately shifting moods, a pastoral comedy and passionate romance story alternating with a blackly menacing thriller. I have already purchased his previous books which will take pride of place on my favourite bookshelf. I would want you to come at this book, if you decide to put it on your TBR list, with the knowledge that it has received favorable reviews (see below for some links), and then take it from there and read away.

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