This was a book that took me a long time to get in to and I do think there are problems with it. I found the Prelude unreadable, partly because of this new-to-me language, partly because I didn’t know why I was reading it and because it was so bitty. So I gave that up half way through. Then, in the main part of the book I couldn’t recall the minor characters at all – and found that I should have read the Prelude. Did this happen to anyone else? I think this is poor writing structure – you need to know who characters are when they appear, not half a book earlier.
I am not convinced by Gibbon’s explanations for the use of so many Scots words. I did get used to them, and didn’t usually bother to look them up, but I think if he is going to use ‘the great English tongue’ he should do so, and if he thinks the book can be written in Scots (which he implies has disappeared from literary usage) he should do so and accept that his royalties will be much reduced.
And then there’s Chris’ education. Much is made of this in the early part of the book so to drop it totally when her father dies and she marries leaves one wondering why. It does serve the function of giving the ogre John Guthrie his redeeming feature (though I found it unbelievable): he supports Chris in her schooling and ambitions. This is number one of a trilogy, so I presume we return to this later. Well, I don’t think I will – it was worth reading and some of it was a joy to read, but I’m not sure I need to read more.