Sir Walter Scott

Anonymously published in 1814 Waverley became an astounding success. While Scott toured the lighthouses of the Northern Isles his book was being avidly consumed by a reading public whose appetite for historical fiction would grow and grow. The birth of a genre is not without it pains and Waverley at over five hundred pages long is laborious to read. The first half dozen chapters had been discarded by Scott and were only rediscovered in a desk during a search for fishing tackle. An inglorious start to what became the first in the Waverley series of novels which cemented Scott’s reputation. With a blending of historical fact and fiction, which both the modern reader and early audience would have been ill-equipped to separate, the novel that was shaped by Scotland turned and re-invented its inspiration. Does it matter that it is not true? The argument over the necessity of historical fact in fictional recreations is set aside by some commentators – as long as the drama has integrity, as long as the observations on the human struggle are accurate. Edward Waverley is as much a blend of fantasy and fact as the setting of the novel. His swithering in affection and loyalty is frequent. The reader’s attachment to his well-being and ultimate undeserved fate remains ambivalent.

This is a historical romantic fiction. Be warned there will, one way or another be a happy ending for the hero. Patience, forbearance and duty are required to finish this book. Something Edward Waverley would do well to learn from.

Gabrielle Barnby

May, 2019, Orkney

Waverley, Walter Scott, book review, Gabrielle Barnby, Scottish, historical, fiction.


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