'Half Scotland sniggered and the other half scowled, when in letters to the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, I put forward my suggestion that prisoners in Scottish jails be allowed to wear their kilts as their national birthright if such be their wish.'
From his origins as an illegitimate child in the slums of Glasgow, Fergus Lamont sets out to reclaim his inheritance and to remake his identity as soldier, poet and would-be aristocrat.
Covering the years from the turn of the century to the Second World War, Fergus's unforgettable voice recounts a tale of vanity, success and betrayal which shines its own sardonic light on Scotland and the cultural and political issues of the day.
At odds with his origins and unsettled in his aristocratic pretensions, Fergus Lamont reaches middle age before he is offered at least the hope of redemption in a love affair with an island woman.
How it turns out and what he learns too late, adds a tragic dimension to the scathing humour of this, Robin Jenkins's most searching exploration of the modern Scottish psyche.
The class-conscious, early-20th-century life story of Fergus Lamont - who, after being bought a boy's kilt by his ostracized (and soon to be a suicide) mother, never wears anything but aristocratic kilts on his lower half again: uppity behavior for a wee-un from the Gantock slums of Scotland. But not really - because Fergus, it so happens, was in fact fathered by a laird. And, throughout this solid but uneventful tale, Scottish novelist Jenkins closely follows the taking-up and puttingdown of Fergus' assumptions of class. Fergus eventually will become a poet, weathered by a World War I officership and soured by marriage to the unfaithful Betty - a popular novelist whose bitchery leads Fergus to forswear society in favor of self-exile to the Hebrides village of East Gerinish. Life is ducky there, with plain-in-the-head, lovely Kirstie. But when she dies, Fergus, growing old, returns one last time to Gantock and his roots, set-straight finally as to who he really is. Jenkins provides some well-aimed observations about Scottish character, and his forays into dialect are never so overdone as to be less than burr-edly appealing. But probably only Scots-ophiles will find enough satisfaction from the local colors here to make this dry, rather heavy fictional biography a consistent pleasure. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: Canongate Classic
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 10th January 1998
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9
Weight (kg): 0.24
Edition Type: New edition