cover image Jamie Macgillivray

Jamie Macgillivray

John Sayles. Melville House, $32 (736p) ISBN 978-1-61219-988-7

Film director and novelist Sayles (Yellow Earth) follows in this strong outing the parallel stories of a Scottish rebel and a young Scottish woman pressed into servitude and sent to the Caribbean. The author opens with the 1745 Battle of Culloden. On one side, there’s “pretender” Bonnie Prince Charlie and his motley army of Highlanders, Irish, Scots, and English deserters. They face off with the infamous Duke of Cumberland and his government forces. Jamie MacGillivray of Dunmaglas—rebel to the core—is captured by the redcoats, imprisoned in a squalid London jail, and transported to Maryland to clear land for his master under the gaze of a man enslaved from Africa. Meanwhile, Jenny Ferguson winds up in the Caribbean after she was falsely accused of helping the rebels, where she’s forced to work as a cook. She eventually learns French and makes her way to Quebec, where Sayles sets more exciting battle scenes. Though Sayles’s efforts at phonetic Scottish diction sometimes sound a bit hackneyed, he has a knack for bringing his many characters to life, and he makes palpable the raw violence of war and the uncompromising inequality of the period. It’s a worthy epic. (Feb.)