This novel, which appeared in 1945, was the most successful of Nigel Tranter’s early works. At the time the Scotsman reviewer wrote that it ‘skillfully evokes the atmosphere of the Highlands… has the vigorous flow action we now accept as characteristic of the author’s Scottish tales.’
The story concerns Alastair MacIver, a tinker whose skill with rod and rifle enabled him to live off the land and go his own way. The gamekeepers knew him for a peaceable man and there was a mutual understanding. When the nearby estate is taken over by a London financier, MacIver finds himself spending a short spell in jail. After this he considers the rules to have changed, and he stalks both breast and man with a skill and vengeance that is terrible to witness.
This exciting tale of one man’s pride and his natural claim to the land against the established might of wealth and privilege is written with a mastery that recalls Stevenson. The descriptions of West Highland life, the evocative scene-painting and the gripping accounts of stalking and fishing make this a particularly compelling read for those who love the outdoor life.
This was a lovely book. Gorgeous language and descriptions. Wonderful characters and sweet romance.
Here’s an excerpt:
Rain held the land in its leaden grip: chill, steady and persistent rain, curtaining the hillsides beneath the heavy grey canopy of cloud that hid all the high tops and peaks under its scowling shroud. For days the earth, sodden and sullen, had cowered beneath its relentless downpour, and everywhere water triumphed, whether noisily rushing, or grimly, sibilantly flooding, or silently soaking and seeping; every burnt was a torrent, every watercourse a cataract, every stream a swirling spate. Under it all, life fell silent and oppressed, man and beast and bird; only the curlews called wearily, wearily, out of their abiding sorrow. Winter was not far away.
and a tense scene when they are capsized in the loch:
The pull of the tide made itself felt immediately they turned. The girl’s arm-work, getting heavier as it had been, now flagged noticeably. “The tide!” he cried, warning her, and for answer she quickened her strokes gallantly, but they were abrupt, ragged thrusts, shallow and unproductive. The man, wearisome and dragging as he felt his own efforts to be, found himself drawing ahead of her, and had to hold back. Anxiously he watched her. Her breathing was short and painful to hear, and, very low in the water, her mouth open, was obviously swallowing a lot. She was not riding the waves as they came any more; each one went over her. Some went over him, too, for that matter, but he had no fear for himself in his anxiety for the woman. Every stroke her swimming became wilder, and soon the man knew that she would never make it, unaided.
This was my 24th book for Read Scotland 2015.