The Winter SeaBook - 2008
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Jimmy Keith rose from his chair with that chivalric reflex that some men of his generation hadn’t lost, and most men of my own had never learnt.
It was a running joke between us that whenever we discovered a male ancestor, his name was either John or James, or, very rarely, David – common names that make it difficult to trace them in the records. There might be countless James McClellands listed living in a town, and we would have to check details of every one of them before we found the one that we were after. ‘What we need,’ my father always used to say, ‘is an Octavius, or maybe a Horatio.’
Most of history is only the tale of the winning side, anyway, and they’ve a motive for painting the other side black. No, the Stewarts weren’t that bad. Take James, for example – old James, who was father to your King James. Most of the books that say he was a bad king and cruel and the rest of it, all that came down from one single account that was written by someone just passing on rumours years after the fact. If you read what was actually written by those who were with James, who saw what he did, they have nothing but good things to say of the man. But historians went with the rumours, and once it’s been written in print, well, it’s taken as gospel, and then it’s a source for the research of future historians, so we keep copying lies and mistakes . . . That’s why I tell my students to always get back to original documents. Don’t trust the books.
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Historically rich, The Winter Sea is a clever weaving together of a contemporary story -- writer Carie McClelland's historical research into her latest book project and her blossoming romance with her landlord's son -- with the account of her book's subjects during the planning and aftermath of the 1708 failed Scottish Jacobite uprising. After spending five months in France, where she has researched the court of the pretender king and intends to locate her novel's events, Carrie is frustrated that work on the book is progressing slowly. She takes a break by visiting her friend and agent near Cruden Bay in Scotland, where she is drawn to a ruined castle that figured significantly into the Jacobite plot, and where she finds that the historical story begins to tell itself through her dreams. She first writes and then researches the characters and plot lines that emerge, finding that her research confirms the accuracy of places, names and events. Near the end, because Carrie's research reveals that her book's hero died in battle, she deals wisely with her struggle between writing a historically accurate novel and delivering a happy ending to her waiting readers. The Winter Sea contains politics, historical intrigue and military strategy, seemingly upstanding characters whose trustworthiness is questionable and romance that is both heart-warming and gut-wrenching. Told through the eyes of Carrie's young heroine, Sophia, and, in the contemporary part of the tale through Carrie herself, The Winter Sea is engrossing.
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