An Innocent in Scotland: More Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters

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9780771055287: An Innocent in Scotland: More Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters

In 1995, David W. McFadden published An Innocent in Ireland: Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters, a quirky and affectionate account of his travels around Ireland. In undertaking the trip, he chose as his guide H. V. Morton, the prolific travel writer of the 1920s and 1930s, whose In Search of Ireland (part of Morton’s famous In Search of... series) had been familiar to him since childhood.

Now, setting out to explore Scotland, his family’s ancestral home, McFadden plans to use the same technique: to follow Morton’s route around the country, observing how things have changed and in what ways they remain the same. As in An Innocent in Ireland, however, his own inquiring mind and engaging personality take over, and Morton appears less and less as McFadden becomes increasingly absorbed by the landscape – and particularly by the people.

Starting in the Lowlands, he travels through Burns country (examining verses that Burns is alleged to have inscribed on a Dumfries window with his diamond ring) and up the east coast to the Highlands. There he lingers by Loch Ness (spotting nothing but tourists), before heading over to the west coast and falling in love with it – particularly with the islands of Mull and Iona. Through the entire trip, McFadden charts an erratic course, led only by H. V. Morton and his own acute eye and very lively curiosity. As he does so, he records his extremely personal impressions, which are wry, amused – and often more astute than he lets on.

The reader won’t find many of the traditional Scottish tourist sites in this account. Rather, as in An Innocent in Ireland, McFadden loves a good chat, and he wisely lets the many characters he meets speak for themselves. He gives generous attention to a variety of talkative barmen, hoteliers, shopkeepers, as well as to passersby that he encounters in the course of his travels. Their conversations, ranging from the instructive or humorous to the eccentric and even surreal, give a thoroughly entertaining view of a Scotland the guidebooks never reveal.

Still quirky, affectionate, always ready to be intrigued or amused, David McFadden makes an ideal companion for any armchair traveller.

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About the Author:

David W. McFadden has published over twenty books of poetry and prose, including Gypsy Guitar, nominated for a Governor General’s Award in 1987 and The Art of Darkness, nominated for a Governor General’s Award in 1984. He lives in Toronto.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A wisecracking, colloquial travelogue of Scotland in all its smirr (a constant, fine rain) and glory. McFadden, the author of over 20 books of prose and poetry, retraces the path of H.V. Morton, a prolific travel writer of the 1920s, across Scotland, using Morton's text as a lens through which to refract his own observations. And while McFadden complains about his muse's sentimentality, he suffers much the same fate as he bombs around the countryside in his wee rental car and waxes generic about various postcard scenes. In his words, Loch Ness becomes ``an area of deeply serene beauty, with a blue mist rising from the long, narrow loch, deep as time itself (as Morton would say).'' Most scenery receives similar treatment, and, once it's been dispensed with, McFadden proceeds to indulge his true interest: tourist watching. He's far more interested in people than in places, and his chapters read like long series of chance encounters, which is what they are. Most such encounters are banal, but a fewsuch as his chat with a student taking tickets at the Duart Castleoffer tantalizing information. Apparently the McFaddens (from whom the author is descended) were known as ``tinkers'' and ``hangers-on'' to the McLeans. While the complexity of clan rivalries is only hinted at, the student's comments seem to indicate that names still carry considerable power: respect can still be accorded (or denied) on the basis of ancient clan affiliation. And in that moment, present and past converge: suddenly, Scotland doesnt seem so far removed from Ireland, with its tribal and religious divisions, or even the Balkans. But McFadden is content to skim the surface of Scottish culture, never delving too far into its fascinating clan hierarchies or ancient hatreds. An Innocent in Scotland is just that; McFadden has produced a saccharine, easy book that glosses both national character and historical context. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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