As more publishing companies have disappeared, and with them many great books which might never be reprinted, Palimpsest is seeking to save Scottish literary classics. The first list will be launched in October 2014 .
Marriage by Susan Ferrier
Anonymously published in 1818, Susan Ferrier’s Marriage, is the first of her three published novels, and combines the story of a scandalous marriage, a dysfunctional family and the rich portrayal of nineteenth century life. Reminiscent of the style of Jane Austen, there is much to enjoy in the clear prose and fine attention to detail. Once I got accustomed to the overall writing style, I rather enjoyed being immersed in this long forgotten way of life. The author is adept at writing about what she knows and I would think that the social traditions she so clearly describes would have been part of her social background. It is commendable that the rise of e-publishing allows a forgotten author another chance to share their stories with a new audience.
Gillespie by J. MacDougall Hay.
The austerity of nineteenth century life is explored in this powerful novel which examines social conscience amongst the Scottish working classes. The eponymous Gillespie Strang is a ruthless and devious man, not likeable in any measure, out to fill his own pockets at the expense of the working class fishing community in which he lives.
Overall, I found the novel difficult to read, not because it was badly written, far from it, it’s a weighty tome. However, I felt that the Scottish dialect made the story difficult to scan easily and left me feeling frustrated and, I must admit, rather downhearted. Not a book to read if you dislike heavy prose, and certainly not joyous in any measure but it works as an example of nineteenth century literary fiction.
Ringan Gilhaize by John Galt.
The troubled history of Scotland’s seventeenth century Covenanters forms the basis of this novel which follows the fortunes of Ringan Gilhaize, whose religious and political conflict is explored in great detail. I found the story ponderous in the extreme and, I’m afraid it’s not one I found I could read easily or with any great enthusiasm. Throughout, I was reminded of the work of Sir Walter Scott but found that even making the comparison with Scott’s work, there was something entirely lacking for me in Ringan Gilhaize. Some works succeed in being brought alive again, sadly for me this concept didn’t work with this forgotten story.
My thanks to Real Readers for the opportunity to read again the work of thses forgotten Scottish authors.