Reviews, Scottish Reads

A History Maker

A tale of border warfare, military and erotic, set in the twenty-third century, where the women rule the kingdom and the men play war games. This is the fictional memoir of Wat Dryhope – edited, annotated and commented upon. History has come to an end, war is regulated as if it’s all a game. But Wat, the “History Maker” himself, does not play entirely by the rules, and when a woman, Delilah Puddock, joins the fray, this ‘utopian’ history is further enlivened. Alasdair Gray cleverly plays with the notion and writing of history, as well as perennial modern debates on war, sexism and society – entertaining and thought-provoking, this is a delightful satire illustrated throughout by the author.

I’d wanted to read something by Alasdair Gray for ages as I just keep seeing their books whenever I’m in the bookshop. This particular book appealed to me because it’s set in a version of the Scottish Borders which is where I’m from. I enjoyed the first half of this book a great deal but the second half, less so. I ended up giving this book 3 stars.

I’ve never read a book set in my home county before so this was really exciting for me. I read a lot of books set in Edinburgh as that was my closest city when I was growing up. finding a book written by a Scottish author and set in The Borders felt like an achievement! The setting was wonderful and felt so accurate to the beauty that is The Borders. I was familiar with the setting which gave me an extra little nugget of enjoyment!

In this world, war was televised entertainment. With remote drones who interviewed the warriors. I really enjoyed this plot as while it felt horrific and just awful, it felt very dystopian. The entire book was laid out as being a memoir by a famed warrior who had grown jaded with his life and had started to question things.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book which was all about the world building, the battle, and the fallout. The second half I enjoyed less. There was a chapter that gave me the ick and I really didn’t enjoy it so I will be avoiding that chapter during any rereads.

This book was set in a a matriarchal society where the women ruled and the men fought in battles for entertainment. It didn’t overly feel like a matriarchy though. It very much felt like the warriors were in charge but that may be due to the book being focussed on a warrior.

There were so many notes at the end of the book which annoyed me. I just thought that maybe if something was important to the story, it should be in the story. A footnote or two is totally fine but there was about 40 pages of notes at the end of this rather short book.

The book was incredibly witty and I really enjoyed the style of writing. After finishing this book I learned that apparently the author disliked this book and thought that it was not their best work. This excited me as I did enjoy this but it implies that I will enjoy their other books even more! I do intend to read more books by Alasdair Gray.

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