Thursday, March 17, 2016

Rob Roy

A book review. There was a movie with the same name from the 1990s, I think, but today I'm going to talk about the original novel by Sir Walter Scott. I guess my readers know who he is so I don't need to go into details, though not everybody is probably aware of the fact that Scott was a Freemason, just like his father before him (which may explain a couple of things).

The events of the novel take place in the 1714-1715 and it deals with the Jacobite uprising against King George though the story itself centers around the adventures of certain Francis Osbaldistone, the only son of a very wealthy and successful London businessman who after receiving an education in France refuses to become his father's partner in his company. Osbaldistone senior promptly kicks him out of the house and sends him North to stay with his brother's family intending to make one of Frank's cousins  his successor in business.

Little do both the father and the son know that the Northern branch of Osbaldistone family are deeply involved in political intrigues, have contacts with the notorious outlaw Rob Roy and are plotting the overthrow of the government...

Rob Roy is a lengthy book, occasionally just boring enough to be ideal reading for a winter evening. It's full of dark drama with sword fighting, rivalry between cousins, violence and bloodshed, hatred till the grave and all other cliches typical for the Romantic genre. It's interesting to see how the times and morals have changed. Frank Osbaldistone, a true son of the Reformed Church, draws his sword when thoroughly provoked and as he thinks he's dying his last desire is to take revenge upon his enemy.

 His friend, a very religious and wealthy middle-aged city magistrate whose father was a deacon, doesn't hesitate to use weapons to defend his honour, either. Whatever you may think of it, it proves that there was time when Western Christianity and its adherents exhibited much more martial spirit than they do now.

The funny thing about the novel is that the two prominent female characters in it, including Frank's love interest Diana Vernon (a distant relative of the family) are both quite feminist. Here I'd like to stress that while Jane Austen was busy writing stories about young girls plotting how to catch a husband, her male colleague portrayed a young girl plotting a revolution. Diana mocks the idea of being a good housekeeper, claims to be able to shoot straighter than any of her male cousins and constantly complains of male chauvinist pigs and the heavy lot of women in life. She also bosses Frank around, but he hardly cares she is so hot.

Rob Roy's wife Helen who, it's heavily hinted was raped by English soldiers coming to throw her off her property is utterly consumed with the desire of revenge and spends her life in military escapades and the acts of cruelty, the fact bitterly regretted by her husband who complains to Frank that all the evil in the world comes from women and children ruling over men. Despite this nod to tradition, it's obvious the author admires Mrs Mac Gregor very much.

Notwithstanding all this, Rob Roy is really a great fun to read and I could recommend it to anyone with a word of warning since it doesn't portray the Catholic Church in all too good a light, Scott being Protestant and stuff. It's not all drama, either, but also has quite comical scenes, chiefly those with Frank's servant, stupid, pompous and cowardly Andrew Fairservice. It has a happy end of sorts, too. I hope you'll enjoy it just as much as I did. 

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