Ardnish Was Home: A Novel by Angus MacDonald

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Ardnish Was Home: A Novel by Angus MacDonald

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Judy Davies
Reviewed by Judy Davies
Summary: A beautiful yet tragic tale, set in the First World War, Ardnish Was Home kept me captivated throughout and left wanting more at the end. It delivers everything the title implies about family and community in the Scottish Highlands and illustrates that love can be found in the most desperate of circumstances.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
ISBN: 978-1780274263

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A tiny peninsular lying on the west coast of Scotland, Ardnish provides a beautiful setting for a book that entices the reader to devour it all in one sitting. Duncan Peter Gillies (DP to friends and family) leaves Ardnish as a young man to sign up for the Lovat Scouts in 1915. What a tragically sweet story is to follow! Posted to Gallipoli, brutal scenes of the realities of the First World War face the reader from page one. Tragically, the young DP is desperately wounded and the medical support is woefully poor. The Gallipoli Campaign seems doomed to fail. DP learns that the order has been given for the allied troops to withdraw to the safety of Malta. Distressingly, the rescue boats are unreliable and DP with other casualties and nurses, find themselves in an impossible position stranded in enemy territory. This fast paced story charts DP's progress in escaping from the war zone, in recovering from his injuries, and, in the most desperate of circumstances, finding love.

This is a book that is truly enthralling - brutal, poetic, unjust but beautiful. The first person delivery brings the reader very personally into the heart of the action. No story set in the First World War is ever going to be an easy read and Ardnish Was Home is certainly hard hitting. Scenes of barbarism, hardship, pointlessness and fear graphically epitomise early twentieth century warfare. But Angus MacDonald is a master at balancing the atrocities of the Gallipoli Campaign with gentle and captivating descriptions of DP's homeland in the Western Highlands of Scotland. Fiercely proud of his ancestry and attached so strongly to his beloved family, DP dreams of home whilst lying on a makeshift camp bed on the beach just behind the front line. The contrasts are stark.

Ardnish Was Home is a lovely book for another reason - it uses story-telling, practised by families over generations, to enrich the tale and pass on the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands. The book is filled with little nuggets of interest which paint a vivid picture of piping, of whisky, of sheep and fish, and most of all, of community spirit. I really enjoyed the weaving together of the historical content with the fast flowing action of a fictional tale, and being treated to heroic deeds, immense loyalty and unselfish bravery.

My one gripe was a desire for a different ending - one less abrupt and frustrating. I wanted the story to continue and I think there was definitely scope for a longer book, with the supporting characters more clearly drawn and prominent. I am left bursting with questions such as what happened to ....? Hopefully there will be a sequel!

For another superb First World War novel then please read Regeneration by Pat Barker.

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Buy Ardnish Was Home: A Novel by Angus MacDonald at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ardnish Was Home: A Novel by Angus MacDonald at


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