The Story Of Scotland - Book Review
Nigel Tranter (1909-2000) declares in the Preface to The Story of Scotland that he is a storyteller not a historian. Yet he has an impressive understanding of Scottish history. A prolific fiction author, he wrote a number of books based on key Scottish events and/or historical figures including The Bruce Trilogy and The Stewart Trilogy. He also wrote children’s books, Westerns (under the pen name Nye Tredgold) and non-fiction books about Scotland – he had a particular interest in Scottish castles. He had a gift for pulling threads of fact into readable fiction, presenting complex ideas in an accessible format. This book does not have a list of sources, but it does draw on a lifetime of exploration of Scotland – a land renowned for its oral traditions.
I found myself immediately drawn in by the conversational writing style of The Story of Scotland. I could hear the strong voice of the author in my head as I read. Observations came thick and fast, illuminating material and reinforcing memory. An example - Tranter asserts that the Picts painting themselves instead of wearing clothes, a “fact” the author was told at school, does not hold weight if you think of the climate they lived in; he also points out that carvings of Picts show them wearing clothing. He links the “craving for a homeland” common in those of Scottish ancestry with Pict religious beliefs – one of many engaging theories about Scottish history and culture proposed in the book.
If you know nothing about Scottish history, you may find this book a useful introduction. If you have dabbled in Scottish history, this book can illuminate areas of darkness. If your approach is academic/scholarly, try this book as a quick read – it may kick start thinking in new directions.
I found this book in a local charity shop and debated before buying whether I needed another book about Scottish history – I am so glad I did buy it, as it provides a unique, creative and heartfelt celebration of all that was and is Scotland.
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