Customer Reviews

1 Review
5 star:    (0)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
1 star:    (0)
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Eulogy For Highland Past, 28 Mar 2010
MLA (Wien, Österreich) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Scottish Highlanders: A People and Their Place (Hardcover)
The story of the Scottish Highlanders is a gripping and bitter one. The tribulations of the people who settled the north west corner of Great Britain make for a heartrending tale. Those first settlers who survived as a distinct community where the Picts and Strathclyders did not went on to fight for their way of life over hundreds of years against what would become the greatest Empire the world has still ever seen. It is a romantic vision, the last tribal society of Europe dedicated to clan and honour matched up aginst the ever-scheming villainy of invaders who sought to extinguish the flamboyant and poetic culture. James Hunter provides an overview of that perspective in Scottish Highlanders. Hunter's is the narrative of Gaelic Scotland from the time of Colum Cille to the Celtic revival in the late 20th century.

From the description of the book, it is a little strange to find that Hunter has put together an historical narrative. Hunter is no historian and this is not intended as an academic work. It is also not so much about the place as the past. No doubt the legend of the Highland Clans is one of the great stories that humanity has to offer but this eulogy is not as anticipated the story of the places and there is not much to be gleaned for anyone looking for insight into the environment that those Clans once thrived in. There are pictures dotted through the book but anyone who has even been briefly to the Highlands probably has a better collection of images. For a large format book with pictures, there really should have been so much more to admire visually.

Instead of being the book it purports from the outside to be, the eulogy is the romanticised tale of the great ages of the clans - Clan Donald, MacLeod, MacLean et al battling Vikings, Stewarts, the Scottish Crown, the malicious Campbells, the British Empire, and then their own decline and eventual clearing. It is a very appealing romance that tugs at the heartstrings and inspires a huge desire to relearn the old ways, the language, and to somehow help to reinvigorate the depopulated and demoralised part of the world. Hunter's role seems to be as a clarion caller with a narrative designed to draw back those Gaels spread now throughout Britain, North America, and Australasia. Hunter does this well. His retelling of the former glory and the crushing results of defeat at Culloden that culminate with the Gordons and the Sutherlands clearing a culture away is indeed moving.

However, it has to be said that Hunter's romantic vision is not a particularly deep one. It talks of the Gaelic culture without delving into the past that saw the Lords of the Isles more closely aligned to Norway than Scotland for many years because Clan Donald remains the recipient of Norse genetic markers. Highlanders and Irish are cousins not brothers. Indeed, some parts of the story are just under-told including the battle for influence between Donalds and Stewarts and the civil war that raged following the forfeiture of the Lordship. The mention of the Clanranald-MacLeod feud is only a slice of what was a much more significant collapse of the social order.

If this is a history book then it might make for a nice introduction that refers to most of the key incidents and players but it is not an historical analysis. If it is a story of the place then it is lacking in a solid enough description of the beauty both in word and in picture. If it is a retelling of legend then it is passionately done but the evocative nature of the stories could be dramatised with more imagery and less straight prose. The book was written too early for the developments in genetic understanding to be available and the links with Gaeldom around the world are now much better understood.

If the story of the Highland Clans is one a prospective reader is not familiar with then this book will be the introduction to the tear-inducing sadness of an heroic people. If it is a tale a prospective reader needs a reminder of, it will stir the passions and might reinvigorate the desire to seek out personal links and revive interest in understanding more. For those that are familiar it will not add much which is a disappointment because a large format book with extraordinary images and tales of this magnificent land and its inspirational people could be superb.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Scottish Highlanders: A People and Their Place
Scottish Highlanders: A People and Their Place by James Hunter (Hardcover - 15 May 1992)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews