The Truth of Stone by David S. Mackenzie

Descriptions from book cover:
‘The discovery of an old curling stone and a female skeleton at the bottom of a former loch prompts James Atherton to investigate the story of Elsie McAndrew, who vanished from his village in 1934. Although the skeleton is easily identified as belonging to Elsie – for she was born with a club foot – what puzzles everyone is that the skeleton is not that of a young woman, but of someone who had comfortably reached old age. What had happened to Elsie in the intervening years? Where had she gone and why had she returned? How did she meet her death? These questions lead James Atherton down many paths and force him to look to his own past as well as that of the elusive Elsie. His journey takes him back to the small enclosed village of his youth when the myth of Elsie ran strong, back further to the carefree days of ice-skating and curling, and further still into Elsie’s own bitter history. But surprisingly his quest does not end there…and it is not until we have travelled with James to London and Naples that we learn the full haunting story of Elsie McAndrew.’

I came across this book over @ There’s Been a Murder in an interview with the author about his newest book The Interpretations. But in the interview, his first book The Truth of Stone was mentioned and I had to have it! It was hard to find any information about it and I finally found a used ex-library copy online. It was only published in the UK.

This book was written quite differently than most I’ve read. I enjoyed it. There are seven parts, not chapters, and two postscripts. It starts in 1984 and jumps back to 1917-1934, back to 1984 then 1947, 1930’s and finishing up in 1969. I like how part two took us thru the story with a description of a photograph beginning each section. We have it in our minds eye then like a snapshot as he tells us this part of the story. Very unique. At first a little confusing but then I caught on to what he was doing and I enjoyed the story. The first paragraph gives you an idea of the ride your in for…

‘This is the story of some things that really happened and of others that did not. In a way then, there are two stories but woven together so that it will be difficult for you to separate the fact from the fiction. It is difficult enough for me. Writing the fictional part is easy; it is the factual part that is hard. However, since I am committed to producing this hybrid does it really matter if I can no longer separate these two in my mind even before I start? I have a feeling that it does. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll find out as I write it down. One thing is sure though; real people inhabit these pages and although most of them are now dead I have changed their names. I find it interesting that in trying to approach the truth I have to start off by telling lies.’

Are you intrigued now or turned off, I wonder. I’m glad I found the book and read it. Elsie was a complex character I think. Was she a victim of her disability, of her circumstances or did she create her own problems with her unforgiving spirit and bitterness? And who exactly is telling this tale?

Peggy Ann

Read Scotland 2014, Meet the Protagonist Challenge