Top positive review
This was a very enjoyable read
on 31 March 2014
The tale of Matthew Graham is both and sad and a happy one. The happiness is gained from the deeply abiding love he shares with Alex – a woman who originates from a time far advanced from his era of the 1660s. The sadness comes as a product of the turbulent times in which they are living. 17th Century Ayrshire, Scotland, is an unstable location to live in where religious persecution and incredible cruelty abounds, the factions of Roman Catholicism at odds with Presbyterian Christian doctrine. The well researched historical aspects shine through in this novel as Anna Belfrage portrays what it was like, on a daily basis, for the families who risked dying, or being mistreated, as a result of the principles maintained and the religious choices made by the man of the house.
The author plunges the reader into the situation where Matthew is torn between choosing to act upon his religious beliefs in helping outlawed preachers, some of these very good friends of his, and continuing to practise his religious observances which have been banned by the king. All of these friendly and supportive acts put his wife and family at serious risk of being punished along with him if he is caught in wrongdoing by the forces of the King and cause strife between him and his wife, Alex. There are many instances of this repeated in the novel, the problem of being detected a continuous one for Matthew Graham. He relents only a little when under pressure from Alex, who is essentially as trapped as he is in her own 21st Century influences.
There are some very tense and indeed some incredibly emotional moments during the long tale when events happen which are outwith the control of Matthew and Alex. In employing the time-travel aspects of the novel, the author is able to neatly weave in many situations where otherwise anachronisms would need to be avoided in a historical novel. We get glimpses of Alex using her twenty-first century knowledge to enhance her 17th Century harsh life, touches of humour creeping in as well to lighten the tedium of the role of the 17th Century wife of the hearth and home. The role of the boy Ian, as son and nephew throughout the novel, is an important one and how Alex accepts the boy at her table is an interesting one. It’s hard to know, but a typical 17th century Scottish wife would probably have been very guided by the man of the house and would have had no such truck with a boy whose parentage was suspect. The time travel/ fantasy aspects make it easier to overcome many prejudices of the times.