“North Uist, Outer Hebrides, 1848
Jess MacKay has led a privileged life as the daughter of a local landowner, sheltered from the harsher aspects of life. Courted by the eligible Patrick Cooper, the Laird’s new commissioner, Jess’s future is mapped out, until Lachlan Macdonald arrives on North Uist, amid rumours of forced evictions on islands just to the south.
As the uncompromising brutality of the Clearances reaches the islands, and Jess sees her friends ripped from their homes, she must decide where her heart, and her loyalties, truly lie.
Set against the evocative backdrop of the Hebrides and inspired by a true story, The False Men is a compelling tale of love in a turbulent past that resonates with the upheavals of the modern world.”
Delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for The False Men by Mhairead MacLeod. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for my place of the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
I spent most of my holidays as a child in Scotland and it has left me with an abiding love of the country and a fascination with its history, which is colourful and brutal, so I was very excited to read this book which is set against the backdrop of probably the most shameful part of Scottish history, the Highland Clearances. If anyone is not familiar with the atrocities committed against the farmers and crofters of the Highlands and Islands at this time, this book will give you a compelling insight into what went on.
The heroine of the book is Jess, the privileged daughter of the factor on North Uist, an island of the west coast of Scotland. The factors were gentlemen appointed by the Laird to manage their estates in a particular area and collect rents from his tenants. Although Jess is the factor’s daughter, she is very friendly with her maid, Catherine, and Catherine’s family who are crofters so, when the Clearances come to North Uist, she is in a unique position to see the situation from both sides and is horrified by what is happening. She tries to intervene, putting her on the wrong side of the society which she is part of.
Jess is a wonderful character to carry this book. Brave and opinionated, she is very much a woman ahead of her time, which sets her against the norms of the day and puts her at odds with her friends and family which makes for great tension and conflict in the book. From our enlightened position 170 years into the future, our sympathies are entirely with Jess as she rages at the injustices being done to her fellow man and her own weak and powerless position as a woman, and basically a chattel, at that time.
The author brings the history and landscape of Scotland during this period vividly to life with beautiful descriptions and we are transported right to the heart of the islands and Highlands and the struggle and conflict. The book is absolutely riveting and had my pulse racing and my heart in my mouth and kept me reading late into the night. I could not help but become emotionally involved in the story and feel everything that Jess was going through. As a living history lesson, this book is masterful. The author makes the speech of the time sound authentic without being a pastiche which is very hard to do.
I loved the author’s style of writing and voice, with the right amount of description to bring the book to life but no so much that slowed the pace. The history lesson is given in a subtle and insidious way without feeling dry and lecturing, it is extremely skilfully done and this book is a great picture of this part of history which will hold anyone who has the slightest interest in learning about Scotland’s past and a policy of brutality against people which changed the face of Scotland forever and continues to have ramifications for the country to the present.
I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an intelligent but gripping read.
The False Men is out now and you can purchase a copy here.
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About the Author
Mhairead MacLeod was born in Inverness, Scotland and spent her early childhood on the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
She now lives in Brisbane, Australia where she worked as an ethics lawyer, investigator and university lecturer. She holds Masters degrees in both Law and in Creative Writing.
An earlier draft of The False Men was short-listed for a HarperCollins Varuna Award for Manuscript Development and also won a Hachette Manuscript Development Award.
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