Monarch of the Glen

Title: Monarch of the Glen
Author: Compton Mackenzie
Rating: 4.5 stars

Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: 1941
Pages: 288
Possible Censorship Issues: Few instances of mild language

As a prior warning to readers who have seen BBC’s Monarch of the Glen television show, this book is very different from what they might expect (though it is quite easy to spot elements that inspired the screen writers).  The story takes place sometime following the first World War as American millionaire Chester Royde; his wife, Carrie; and sister, Myrtle, travel to Scotland and visit their (very) distant relative Ben Nevis, Laird of Glenbogle. Unfortunately for Myrtle, they discover that Ben Nevis is broke and views Myrtle as a potential wife for one of his burly sons.  Furthermore, they don’t count on their relative being a fiery and feisty Scotsman; proud of his clan, defensive of his land, and idealistic of his traditions. When a group of hikers trespass onto Ben Nevis’s land and spoil a hunt, it becomes an uproarious war between the groups of Scotsmen over traditional values.

I laughed all the way through this book—it is an utterly hysterical farce. There were many times that I both read out loud and texted segments to my friends and family. Especially as an American who has visited Scotland twice, I identified with many of the antics Carrie, Chester, and Myrtle pulled as they attempted to connect with their ancient Scottish roots and convince the natives that they too were Celtic at heart.  In addition to being highly entertained, I gleaned a great deal about Scottish culture, heritage, and folklore that I hadn’t fully understood previously.  By the end of the book, I gained a new appreciation for a society that is often romanticized, but rarely seen in truly comedic form.

The story begins rather slowly, but after the first few chapters it takes off at a rousing pace until the end. The characters aren’t deep, but they fit the story well and compliment the humorous situations they find themselves in.  The character of Ben Nevis is truly a delight and made me laugh more times than I can count. I would very readily suggest this book to anyone (I already have several friends that plan on borrowing it at the first opportunity), and look forward myself to finding more of Compton Mackenzie’s novels to devour.

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