Life at the Lake

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Verna Maclean's new historical novel, Farewell Rhilochan, Classic Day Publishing, Seattle, 2003. ISBN 1-59404-009-5, $19.95 postpaid. 
It can be special ordered from, your favorite bookstore, or ordered directly from the author at 13057 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125

It isn't every day an old friend publishes her first novel, specially when that friend is approaching an age which loosely might be called "old," too.

Author Verna Maclean

We went through college together, got married about the same time, and find ourselves friends still, friends again, along with her husband of nearly fifty years, Ken Maclean, who published his first novel a year earlier, reviewed by my Kingfisher Journal then. We were all English majors together, at mid-century, but survived that hazard and went on to live happy lives.

Many of our friends did not. There were illnesses, suicides, divorces, sexual-preference changes, debilitating accidents, and difficult or impossible children.

So with pride and vicarious pleasure we report that this novel of turn-of- the Nineteenth Century Scotland is a good read. I envy Verna her ability to write a sparkling straight-forward sentence—not just one but a whole series of them, one after another. And her story speeds rapidly along, with rarely a redundant or inappropriate word.

Catherine Macfarland is a girl of the Highlands, a daughter of tenant farmers. Her mother, Jane, is sick and dying. But death was an every day occurrence in those days. Already she has lost a sister and is caring for her sister's child, when the family learns it is to be dispossessed of its rented land and sent off by the absentee landlord to live by the sea.

Catherine has long red hair and is attractive to men, including her brother-in-law, Thomas, an ambiguous character who is both an honorable and attractive man and seemingly a bit of a cad. Catherine is not attracted to him, however, but to Tom's brother, Euan Mor (Mor means big), a soldier, who is always gone, but returns from service to save Catherine from Aenas Henderson, the agent of their landlord, Lord Stafford. There is also the prospect of jail, and perhaps murder or execution by Henderson or his minions.

Whew! The book is solidly interesting historically, with the unseen Stafford family interested only in getting maximum income out of their land (sheep-raising) and with no concern for the welfare of their tenant farmers, who have been scratching out a living from the soil for decades.
The book is written for rapid reading and will appeal to women more than to men. But there is enough action and bloody scrapping for both sexes to find it enjoyable.

I read it happily, and not only because it was written by a friend. I hope Verna writes another one. I didn't know she had it in her.

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Trumpeter swans on snow and ice


So much depends
On the white swans
In the buff fields,
Stiff with stubble.

(With apologies to WCW) - - Comments ()