Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Book of the Month



     'Damn your eyes, sir! You think me a simpleton? If you was to set the Excise men loose on Redmond’s affairs, there’s no telling that they might not stumble upon your own. Is that not the case? This whole town is riddled with corruption. Why, they tell me that sometimes you have timbers imported here on the very same vessels that land Redmond’s tea, so that you might avoid the duty together.’

1744, and the whole country is threatened once again by civil war as the exiled Stuarts attempt to recover their lost throne. Their Manchester supporters will use any means to raise support and finance for the Jacobite Cause. But those loyal to the current monarchy are equally determined to stop them. As the opposing forces gather, and the threat of civil war becomes a reality, the fates of both sides will lie in the hands of one man – Aran Owen – who must choose between loyalty to the family who have raised him and his burning ambition to become a renowned artist. The finale will be played out on the ramparts of Carlisle Castle in the winter of 1745. Hopes of a Stuart Restoration are dashed – and Aran finally discovers who are the Rogues and who the Righteous within the complex web of his relationships.
 This book is a massive work of art and the extensive research done by the author is to be commended. This book was nothing like I expected when I first picked it up. I was looking forward to what I believed to be a tale based around 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and his fight to win back the British throne from the Hanoverian King George for the Stuart dynasty. I was dissapointed to find that it was not, but as I continued to read I found itquite intriguing and the more I read the more I enjoyed it.
It begins with a prologue in which the reader is left with a moral. The main character a young Aran Owen is sent by his mother on a fly wagon to Manchester, on the way there he travels with a gentleman who teaches him that he will need to know the righteous from the rogues. Then years later, we meet the family that a grown up Aran has been fostered to in Manchester. They are staunch Jacobites, supporters of the Stuart cause. At the head of the family is Titus Redmond, a wealthy, middleaged merchant and brothel owner, his beautiful wife who uses her charms to gain information for the cause in her liason with royalist James Bradley and their four daughters, the eldest, Rosina, equally as attractive as her mother, but 'afflicted' by tribady (lesbianism). Another main player was the insidious and  interesting double spy Dudley Striker whose sinister presence throughout the book makes him one of the most strangely enjoyable characters.
Other characters include the coffee house owner Elizabeth Cooper, who seduces the young influential Rosina Redmond much to the distaste of Aran who hankers after the beautiful Rosina. The relationship between the two women cause a terrible scandal in Manchester social circles and astounds not least , Rosina's parents.
The above are just some of the characters in this book, there are also many others who contribute to the many threads of this tale as they lead to the explosive conclusion of the book. We see the two different sides, the Jacobites, steadfastly Catholic and the Protestant Royalists as curiously they strive to behave with decorum in social circles whilst behind the scenes plotting the downfall of their rivals. Titus Redmond's wife Maria Louise was one of the most likeable characters.She is loyal to her husband despite her sexual liasons, one with Aran, which they hide duplicitly from Titus and the other with James Bradley, a relationship that Titus encouraged in order for the Jacobites to gain oneupmanship on the Hanoverians. However, Titus doesnt bargain for Maria Louise falling for Bradley, whom she later realises she is in love with. 
One of my small criticisms was that it was difficult to follow who the main character was at times as it seemed there were more scenes where the focus was on other characters and considering that the author implies that as the Jacobites apprentice, Aran is the main character, he appears to have the smallest role so-to-speak. However, the plot seems to evolve as Aran is drawn into the Hanoverian camp and having come under threat from the deadly assassin Striker, does his best to remain loyal to the family who have brought him good fortune, the Redmonds. The weird relationship between Rosina and her lesbian lover, Royalist Elzabeth Cooper leaves you wondering why on earth the author has used the story line but all will be revealed in the conclusion as Aran works out who were the Rogues and who were the Righteous, however it seems apparent to him, I confess it wasnt exactly apparent to me. I must say the it went a little over my head much like a joke's punchline that you dont understand.
The language of The Jacobites Apprentice was authentic and very amusing. David Ebbsworth uses well researched 18thc vernacular and the over use of a certain swear word sometimes made me cringe, however I accept that this was the personality of the character being portrayed. In his author's note, David lets us know what his references were and he produces an extensive library to back up his use of events, places and people. He also lets us know what his inventions were and which part of the novel were accurately portrayed. Dudley Striker it seems was based on a real person, I particularly liked reading his back story. The characters are quite complex and there are no perfect heroes, they all have their foibles. I could see this book being made into a big televsion production or even a musical! Well they did Sweeny Todd didnt they!
 The Jacobites would not be for everybody I imagine, it is a great sweeping giant of a book and the language is authentic and reads like a classic. If you like an easy read, this isnt for you. but if you are the type who enjoys Henry Fielding and Charles Dickens this is definitely for you. And if you want a challenge, then this is also for you! Brilliant stuff. Go on Challenge yourself! Its worth it!


  1. Wonderful review, Paula - but almost as long as the book! Loved it though. Perfectly fair and great set of constructive criticisms. And you know what? The Elizabeth-Rosina thing was over MY head too! Sometimes, stuff just happens...