More Maurice Walsh

4 December, 2014

I raced through these two books this week and enjoyed them both hugely. They read better than The Sons of the Swordmaker; the first person narrative read more naturally than the book set earlier. Without wanting to give too much away, I’ll write a pair of short reviews of them.

This book tells the story of a David Gordon, born of an Irish mother and a Scottish father. It starts with him setting sail from Bristol for Ireland in the early days of the Nine Years’ War, soon after the Battle of Clontibret in 1595. The story takes David up to Ulster, where he meets family, gets involved in battles and raids as well as romance. The characters in the story are memorable and there’s a good measure of humour to the story.

As mentioned in my last post, this was published as The Dark Rose in the US. Similar to Blackcock’s Feather this is a first person narrative of a character of middling significance in a period of war. The narrator, Martin Somers is the Adjutant of Women in O’Cahan’s Irish regiment that fought with James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose for the King in what is now called the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Like Blackcock’s Feather it has memorable characters and a plot of romance that takes place during battles and involves raids and other adventures.

I needed to get a Scots Dictionary to read the dialogue of this book in many places. Maurice Walsh lived in Scotland for a time and seems to use Scots authentically. It adds a lot to the dialogue and characterization of the protagonists.

In both these books, although it’s clear where the narrator’s, and the writer’s, sympathies lie, there are noble and honourable opponents, as well as villains. In And No Quarter, Walsh argues that the women that followed Montrose’s army were not fallen women as the Covenanters painted them (and then took savage pleasure in slaughtering them when they had the chance), but ‘the mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts that always followed the male of Gaeldom to war’ (p. 259).

It’s a long time, over thirty years now, since I read Nigel Tranter’s books on Montrose. With my memory so hazy I can’t really compare them to And No Quarter, but the focus is quite different; for Tranter Montrose is the focus, whereas Walsh gives an interpretation of life during those events for more ordinary individuals (though his characters are somewhat extraordinary). Anyway, I enjoyed this excursus into historical fiction, though I’ll probably go back to reading fantasy fiction now!

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