Tuesday, August 19, 2008

book review: The Weir of Hermiston

The result of reading a book that is not finished is to hand you the chance to get an insight into the mind of a storyteller at work. Where Robert Louis Stevenson was going to take this story is left on a cliff-hanger, caused by his death, but trying to work out your own ending leaves you to search the story and the characterisation for clues.

Ultimately if you go in for happy endings then you could have imagined a Romeo and Juliet type story developing between the Laird of Hermiston’s son Archie and the neighbouring family’s daughter. But with the Laird a notorious hanging judge and bitter widower it could easily end as a tragedy with Archie, already banished to the country estate, under more pressure to conform to his father’s wishes.

Either way it was adding up to become a great ending after having already established itself as a well crafted story. Archie, the sole off-spring of a union between a pious solitary woman and an ambitious lawyer, who becomes a hanging judge, ends up in trouble for expressing his anti-corporal punishment views. This brings the young man’s legal career to an end and puts him on the wrong side of a few of his friends in the legal community.

Once banished to his father’s country estate where he is surrounded by women, both the housekeeper and the delights of the neighbours family, he becomes even more solitary. Having set a course of suffering his punishment he determines to put his back into the estate and then he meets and falls in love with Kirstie.

Things are going slowly but surely until the arrival of an acquaintance from Edinburgh who is down on his luck and keen to exploit Archie. He discovers about the love affair and threatens to use it to destabilise father and son relationships even further.

At the point where the pen rested Archie has met up with Kirstie with the intention of breaking off the blossoming affair in order to protect them both from gossip and intrigue. She doesn’t understand and is wounded by his apparent concern about others.

That’s where it stops but as already mentioned it could head in various directions and is so well crafted that whichever turn it took it would no doubt have been a pleasure to have continued on with it. Love no doubt would have conquered and the hanging judge would have met his match in a showdown with his son and hopefully the hanger on sucking the goodwill out of Archie would have had his comeuppance.

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