Nae the Best, Nae the Worst

I had to push myself –more than once–to read this book.  I saw the cover (cheesy, I thought) and anticipated 703 pages of semi-cheesy writing.  But I love Scotland; I love Columba; I love Iona.  So I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.  The Fields of Bannockburn roams through the history of Scotland in four sections: Columba coming to Iona; Kenneth mac Alpin uniting the Picts and Scots; Queen Margaret and her work of reformation; and William Wallace at Stirling Bridge / Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

Donna Fletcher Crow weaves the historical stories around a modern tale of three college students and their friend, storyteller Hamish MacBain.  While I dinna find Mary, Gareth and Brad’s story compelling, I enjoyed the way fiction can bring ancient history to life.  The inner thoughts of the main Scottish characters seemed anachronistic at times, but not so much that I had to stop reading.

There are several ancient prayers incorporated into the story. For example,

The blessing of God be on you,
The blessing of Christ be on you,
The blessing of the Spirit be on you.
O giver of the sweet honey,
O giver of the sour cheese,
O giver of the Bread of Life and Living Water,
Be with us by day,
Be with us by night,
Be with us for Thy service.

What really excites me is the author’s website, particularly the section My Life As a Reader

I had an ideal childhood for a reader. I was an only child, living on a farm. I would take a book out to the middle of the alfalfa field in front of our house, lay down flat and revel in the fact that God was the only person in the whole universe who knew where I was.    

My reading life has always gone by passions, finding a writer I loved, reading everything he or she (usually she) wrote, then feeling absolutely bereft when I came to the end. Much the same feeling as having a child leave for college, I later learned. My passions have included Norah Lofts, D. E. Stevenson, Mary Stewart, Rumer Godden, Elizabeth Goudge and Elswyth Thane with whom I carried on a delightful correspondence just before she died and I began writing professionally.

Donna Fletcher Crow, a former teacher of English literature, lists her most influential authors as Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Pym, P.D. James, and Susan Howatch.  With a list like that, I’d say she is credentialed.

If gardening is your passion, visit Donna’s garden in Boise, Idaho.  A delightful meandering through links brought this great discovery:  The Plot Thickens, a blog devoted to novelists and their garden spots. 


8 thoughts on “Nae the Best, Nae the Worst

  1. WOW I’m here first!I like Scotland based stories, too. I would love to go some day, which would no doubt crush all my mental images of the place, but of course that would be ok.Thank you for finding a steady list of books for me to track down!  I like to get these recommendations. It makes me mindful of how important the librarians of my chilhood were to me, and formulated my reading. You are one of my “adult librarians”.Thanks, Carol!

  2. I own all three of Crowe’s UK series (Glastonbury, Bannockburn, and Boyne), but have only finished one (Boyne).   I agree that her writing is not superior, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  Thanks for the link to her website.

  3. I read a series of historical fiction by Elswyth Thane when I was in high school on the recommendation of my piano teacher.  I hadn’t heard of her before then, and I haven’t heard of her since except in the past couple weeks when her name has popped up twice, including here!  I can’t remember the name of the series, but it had to do with American history and a family named Sedgwick, I think.  (Or was there a character named Sedgwick?  I can’t remember . . .)

  4. Wow does that look good, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve just added it to my “Wish List” on Paperback Swap.On a side note, I’ve often though that there should be a special category, “Good books with cheesy covers”

  5. I picked this up upon your recommendation, and am having a hard time with it – for me, the cheese factor is quite strong.Encourage me. I’ve gotten to the end of the St. Columba/St. Mingo section. 

  6. @mmewhinn – I”m sorry.  Don’t strain.  I tried several times before I pushed through.  I love Scotland’s history; I think that propelled me to finish. But there are better books.  Don’t drown in cheese.

  7. I also like Scotland’s history, but I think I’m going to set it aside at least for now. It does help to know that you started and stopped too.hope all is well, thanks! 

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