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

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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.

From the opening paragraphs the reader is informed that the setting is 1809, more than two centuries ago. More than anything it focuses on the tentative, partial ways in which people come to know themselves and to know others.

I have holidayed in the Hebrides for several years and the writing set there is generic and characterless: it is hard to believe Miller has been there and it feels like “The Hebrides” is a convenient way of saying “somewhere a long way away”. My first book by this author whose previous books have won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Costa/Whitbread Prize and IMPAC Dublin Literary award and been shortlisted for the Booker prize– I was drawn to this book by a review in the Guardian which stated “the fact it’s not made this year’s Man Booker longlist is already something of a travesty”. Recently on Twitter, when the topic of the latest Booker Prize shortlist came up, I commented that I’ve starting paying more attention to other prize lists when scouting for books to read.

If you’re looking for a good story after the Booker baker’s dozen of finest fiction, Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free awaits you. It struck me reading this that one of the pleasures of historical fiction is that it can’t take the world for granted, as a modern book can – everything that is different from our world has to be described or implied with language, has to be created afresh. But there’s an intimacy to the way he inhabits his characters that makes them feel modern and natural. I liked Oxygen and Pure; I really liked his earlier Ingenious Pain; I felt The Crossing, his last novel, was a breakthrough.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. The device of a journey allows the author to explore a changing world – the brutalities of early industrialism, despoiled agriculture and millenarian sects. Manhunt and pilgrimage, the tale unfolds into a gripping and, ultimately, surprising exploration of the inner battleground.

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free opens in 1809, shortly after the Spanish campaign of the Peninsular war.I have never studied the Napoleonic wars, and especially the Spanish campaign and the peninsular wars. Lacroix observed in the immediacy of their physical love after his confession: “she does not especially mind what I have done and she knows more about this thing we are doing than I“. 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. Extraordinary; his writing seems to discover, or perhaps creates, additional dimensions to the world, and in the reader. In his luminous prose, Costa Prize winner Andrew Miller conjures three very different men, but their experiences have all been traumatising.

Comments that contribute civilly and constructively to discussion of the topics raised on this blog, from any point of view, are welcome. While fighting in Spain, it eventually becomes apparent, he was witness to a My Lai-like massacre carried out by frightened, starving British troops against the small Spanish village of Morales. 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.No ancient and honourable institution is without its ancient and honourable crimes,” observes a shadowy superior. According to this article at the Guardian, when asked what it meant to be a novelist Andrew Miller replied:“Eyes open, heart open, feet on the ground.

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