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

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I won’t give more specifics about the plot; I’ll just note that it sets up a structure that is at once simple and increasingly suspenseful. In his luminous prose, Costa Prize winner Andrew Miller conjures three very different men, but their experiences have all been traumatising. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.

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. Andrew Miller can spin a ripping yarn with the skill and assurance of a master and the winner of the 2011 Costa Book of the Year for Pure is at the top of his game with Now We Shall Be Entirely Free .I didn’t like the writing style and at page 219 I still hadn’t connected with any the characters, I just didn’t care about anything or anyone. Eventually he arrives at a remote island in the Hebrides where he is given shelter by the Frend family, comprising Emily, her sister Jane, and their brother Cornelius. Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, which opens in 1809, records the aftermath of Napoleon’s rout of the British in northern Spain. The device of a journey allows the author to explore a changing world – the brutalities of early industrialism, despoiled agriculture and millenarian sects.

There is a lot of suffering in the novel: that harsh experience, grief, and failure should make us welcome, not turn away from, joy is one of the lessons Lacroix struggles to learn and that Miller, indirectly, offers us in our turn. And I won't spoil it, but the pay off was not quite as satisfying as it should be and felt a bit damp. Gradually you learn that he is an ex-soldier, somehow saved from the retreat ar Corunna in the Napoleonic Wars, and now part deafened, barely alive and full of guilt for an alluded to but unravelled event, he is recovering at his family home in Somerset. Only towards the end of the book will he reveal the nature of those memories to a confidante to whom he has become close.Far from prettifying the past, Now We Shall Be Entirely Free reveals an early-19th-century Britain riven between the haves –in whom we perhaps recognise ourselves, people such as Lacroix, who can recover from illness and injury in a warm room at least, rather than being thrown on the streets – and a majority population who live in squalor and absolute poverty. I'll quote from Johanna Thomas-Corr review in The Guardian: the fact it’s not made this year’s Man Booker longlist is already something of a travesty.

He remembers 9-year-old Lizzie Bentley, from Southwark, who one day caught her hand in a belt and had her arm ripped off at the shoulder.Lacroix makes plans to bolt to the islands of Scotland, where we suppose he will find a salve for his torment, or simply somewhere to hide. Comments that contribute civilly and constructively to discussion of the topics raised on this blog, from any point of view, are welcome. I would appreciate it even more if Miller took the extra steps of more adroitly weaving My Lai and historical accuracy into his narrative. Thanks to the author's gloriously descriptive writing, I was transported to the early 19th century where I accompanied Lacroix on his journey.

I appreciated the inclusion of the Hebrides, but having holidayed on various of those stunning islands for many years, I couldn't understand the lack of detail and almost sparseness of the prose in those parts. The concept of “total war” was articulated by Carl von Clausewitz, (in his book On War ) immediately after the Napoleonic wars, published in 1832). Add in an interesting excursion into the development of surgery and hygiene, and, (my personal highlight) a mention of Mingulay, a place filled for me with happy memories of fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins, oh, and some people too, although the island was abandoned in 1912. In the course of his journey, Lacroix experiences both the best and worst of humanity, experiencing violence but also the kindness of strangers.

It is a four-square adventure story, with an intrepid male hero, a supporting cast of women who are either meekly servile or scrabbling rather prettily at the bars of convention, landscapes that are rugged but essentially benevolent, and a villain who – although allowed some reason for being so – is a real bastard.

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