Longlisted: Not The Booker Prize 2016
1679 - The Killing Times
Charles II is on the throne, the Episcopacy has been restored, and southern Scotland is in ferment.
The King is demanding superiority over all things spiritual and temporal and rebellious Ministers are being ousted from their parishes for refusing to bend the knee.
When John Steel steps in to help one such Minister in his home village of Lesmahagow he finds himself caught up in events that reverberate not just through the parish, but throughout the whole of southern Scotland.
From the Battle of Drumclog to the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, John's platoon of farmers and villagers find themselves in the heart of the action over that fateful summer where the people fight the King for their religion, their freedom, and their lives.
Set amid the tumult and intrigue of Scotland's Killing Times, John Steele's story powerfully reflects the changes that took place across 17th century Scotland, and stunningly brings this period of history to life.
Review by James Roberston:
‘In a recent public lecture on ‘Scottish Literature and Power’, the distinguished writer and journalist Neal Ascherson commented that treatment of the Covenanters in our literature is “fascinating and revealing” and that although every age reinvents them for its own purpose, all recognise the Covenanters as “rebels against a power establishment”. Ethyl Smith is the latest writer to explore the legacy of the Covenanters: her novel depicts ordinary people forced by circumstance to weigh their religious faith and their political beliefs against the everyday practicalities of survival. It is an unsustainable balancing act, and Ms Smith does not shrink from showing the brutality and destruction that result. She writes with a fine ear for Scots speech, and with a sensitive awareness to the different ways in which history intrudes upon the lives of men and women, soldiers and civilians, adults and children. Changed Times, the first in a projected trilogy, reminds us that the past is neither as distant nor as complete as we might like to think.’
Review by Jan Fortune:
Changed Times is a remarkable and compelling debut from an accomplished name to watch. A superb story with distinctive characters who are complex, and convincing; the novel is rich in research that renders it authentic whilst never becoming intrusive. It’s a joy to read a historical novel with real dialect that is also easy to follow and always engaging. A narrative with huge scope and superb pacing, reading Changed Times will leave you impatient for the next two volumes in this evocative, moving and absorbing trilogy.