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The Ninth Child: The new novel from the…
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The Ninth Child: The new novel from the author of The Sealwoman's Gift (utgåvan 2020)

av Sally Magnusson (Författare)

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185937,028 (3.83)Ingen/inga
Medlem:pieternella
Titel:The Ninth Child: The new novel from the author of The Sealwoman's Gift
Författare:Sally Magnusson (Författare)
Info:Two Roads (2020), 384 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:***
Taggar:Ingen/inga

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The Ninth Child av Sally Magnusson

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Visar 5 av 5
The Ninth Child, Magnusson’s second novel, is inspired by a true event in Scottish history – the construction of the Loch Katrine aqueducts, meant to supply fresh water from the loch to the city of Glasgow, thirty-five miles away. This ambitious project was commenced in 1855 and was inaugurated by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1859. The protagonist of Magnusson’s story is the fictional Isabel Aird, whose husband Dr Alexander Aird is assigned to the project to cater for the workers’ medical requirements. Isabel joins her husband and is, at first, not particularly enthusiastic about her new life in the Highlands. She also battles with the pain of consecutive miscarriages. As she settles down, however, not only does she start to appreciate the countryside and the company of the locals but, inspired by the recent exploits of Florence Nightingale in Crimea, she also nurtures the ambition of working side by side with her husband in the medical profession.

Magnusson weaves into Isabel’s story the legend associated with the Reverend Robert Kirke (or Kirk), a 17th Century Scottish Episcopalian minister and Gaelic scholar. Kirke wrote the first complete translation of the Scottish metrical psalms into Gaelic, and was also involved in the publication of one of the earliest Gaelic editions of the Bible, whose printing in London was funded by scientist Robert Boyle. However, Kirke is nowadays best known for The Secret Commonwealth, a book which he left unpublished at his death. Its lengthy subtitle gives a good indication of the subject of Kirke’s studies: an Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People heretofore going under the names of Fauns and Fairies, or the like, among the Low Country Scots as described by those who have second sight. The fairy realm is hardly the typical area of study of a religious minister, and Kirke’s dubious dabbling in this “occult” fare gave rise to the legend that he was spirited away by the fairies at his death, his body replaced with that of a stranger. Sir Walter Scott refers to this legend in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft: Scott, it should be said, published the first edition of The Secret Commonwealth in 1815, more than a century after Kirke’s death.

Magnusson imagines Kirke returning from fairyland and striking up a friendship of sorts with Isabel Aird. Fairies and Elves in Gaelic folklore are hardly the cute spirits found in children’s books, and we soon learn that the sìthichean are asking from Kirke a nefarious deed in return for being released from fairy captivity.

The Ninth Child is a well-researched historical novel with supernatural elements – and it should have been right up my street. Yet, I struggled to finish it, leaving it to the side for several weeks before returning to it in earnest. I can’t really put my finger on why this was the case, particularly since so many readers have been really enthusiastic about the novel. It might be that I simply was not in the mood for it. That said, I could not shake off the impression that the book was somewhat all over the place. Isabel’s story is already compelling on its own, and with introduction of Kirke, we get some supernatural frisson as well. However, Magnusson also introduces several other characters, including historical figures such as Victoria and Albert and scientist and polymath William Rankine. Their stories and voices intertwine – sometimes in unlikely ways, such as Prince Albert’s meeting with Robert Kirke. I felt that these subplots sapped the punch from what could have been an interesting and captivating story.

Related to this, there’s also the issue of the multiple and rapidly changing viewpoints. The novel’s “anchoring” narrative is Isabel’s story, as recounted by Kirsty McEchern, Isabel’s Scottish helper and friend. However, the novel often switches to omniscient third person narration, showing us scenes between the Airds (and between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) which, of course, Kirsty would not have been privy to. We then get Kirke’s ruminations, answered by the fairies’ insolent replies. This, apart from various letters and diary entries of the various figures, some of whom make little more than a cameo appearance. Again, I felt that this blurred the novel’s focus.

This book then, has plenty to recommend it, but I would have liked it leaner. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
The Ninth Child, Magnusson’s second novel, is inspired by a true event in Scottish history – the construction of the Loch Katrine aqueducts, meant to supply fresh water from the loch to the city of Glasgow, thirty-five miles away. This ambitious project was commenced in 1855 and was inaugurated by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1859. The protagonist of Magnusson’s story is the fictional Isabel Aird, whose husband Dr Alexander Aird is assigned to the project to cater for the workers’ medical requirements. Isabel joins her husband and is, at first, not particularly enthusiastic about her new life in the Highlands. She also battles with the pain of consecutive miscarriages. As she settles down, however, not only does she start to appreciate the countryside and the company of the locals but, inspired by the recent exploits of Florence Nightingale in Crimea, she also nurtures the ambition of working side by side with her husband in the medical profession.

Magnusson weaves into Isabel’s story the legend associated with the Reverend Robert Kirke (or Kirk), a 17th Century Scottish Episcopalian minister and Gaelic scholar. Kirke wrote the first complete translation of the Scottish metrical psalms into Gaelic, and was also involved in the publication of one of the earliest Gaelic editions of the Bible, whose printing in London was funded by scientist Robert Boyle. However, Kirke is nowadays best known for The Secret Commonwealth, a book which he left unpublished at his death. Its lengthy subtitle gives a good indication of the subject of Kirke’s studies: an Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People heretofore going under the names of Fauns and Fairies, or the like, among the Low Country Scots as described by those who have second sight. The fairy realm is hardly the typical area of study of a religious minister, and Kirke’s dubious dabbling in this “occult” fare gave rise to the legend that he was spirited away by the fairies at his death, his body replaced with that of a stranger. Sir Walter Scott refers to this legend in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft: Scott, it should be said, published the first edition of The Secret Commonwealth in 1815, more than a century after Kirke’s death.

Magnusson imagines Kirke returning from fairyland and striking up a friendship of sorts with Isabel Aird. Fairies and Elves in Gaelic folklore are hardly the cute spirits found in children’s books, and we soon learn that the sìthichean are asking from Kirke a nefarious deed in return for being released from fairy captivity.

The Ninth Child is a well-researched historical novel with supernatural elements – and it should have been right up my street. Yet, I struggled to finish it, leaving it to the side for several weeks before returning to it in earnest. I can’t really put my finger on why this was the case, particularly since so many readers have been really enthusiastic about the novel. It might be that I simply was not in the mood for it. That said, I could not shake off the impression that the book was somewhat all over the place. Isabel’s story is already compelling on its own, and with introduction of Kirke, we get some supernatural frisson as well. However, Magnusson also introduces several other characters, including historical figures such as Victoria and Albert and scientist and polymath William Rankine. Their stories and voices intertwine – sometimes in unlikely ways, such as Prince Albert’s meeting with Robert Kirke. I felt that these subplots sapped the punch from what could have been an interesting and captivating story.

Related to this, there’s also the issue of the multiple and rapidly changing viewpoints. The novel’s “anchoring” narrative is Isabel’s story, as recounted by Kirsty McEchern, Isabel’s Scottish helper and friend. However, the novel often switches to omniscient third person narration, showing us scenes between the Airds (and between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) which, of course, Kirsty would not have been privy to. We then get Kirke’s ruminations, answered by the fairies’ insolent replies. This, apart from various letters and diary entries of the various figures, some of whom make little more than a cameo appearance. Again, I felt that this blurred the novel’s focus.

This book then, has plenty to recommend it, but I would have liked it leaner. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Sep 12, 2020 |
‘The Ninth Child’ by Sally Magnusson is a Scottish historical mystery featuring a doctor’s wife, Queen Victoria, an infrastructure project to bring clean water to Glasgow from the wild and beautiful lochs, and the sithichean (fairies).
It is a story of water and the fate of two different women, both expecting their ninth child, and their husbands; one who is ignorant until the end, the other who looks the threat in the eye and shivers. The pregnant women, who have never met, are the Queen and Isabel, wife of Dr Alexander Aird, physician to the water construction project. The Airds live on the remote and basic construction site in a stone cottage called Fairy Knoll, alongside the drilling and tunnelling of the water project. There are two stories here - a historical saga about health and living conditions for the families which struggle both in Glasgow tenements and of the navvies that work on the water project; and a mystical story of a preacher stolen by the fairies in 1692 who returns 167 years later to talk and walk with Isabel Aird. His purpose is not clear but he is egged on by a fairy voice with whom he has made an unearthly deal. The link with Queen Victoria is tenuous and, after a strong introduction, this strand goes silent for a long time.
The tale is told by the Aird’s neighbour and servant Kirsty McEchern, alternating with Robert Kirke the preacher and, briefly, Prince Albert. At times the transition between viewpoints is sudden and confusing and I admit to skipping over some of the Robert Kirke passages. Sometimes his dialect merged into a following section by Kirsty and this took me away from the story. But I did like the character of Isabel Aird and the portrayal of her journey through the grief for her eight miscarriages. Inspired by contemporary women such as Florence Nightingale and Anne Lister, Isabel fights against her husband’s expectations that she pursue a gentlewoman’s traditional life. The juxtaposition of the Queen, Isabel and Kirsty demonstrates that women, whatever their class and education, face many of the same trials in life and have the similar mental and physical fortitude when called upon.
Magnusson is a confident writer in this period and I believed in the construction site she describes near Loch Chon and Loch Katrine. Many characters and incidents are based on real people and events including many places in the Trossachs national park which to this day bear fairy names. The Queen Victoria strand promised much but was under-used. I wished the story had more pace and for this reason the first three-quarters of the book was a 3* for me, rising to 4* for the last quarter which races along. A special mention goes to the glorious purple thistle cover.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Apr 2, 2020 |
For Isabel Aird, her husband's new job as doctor at a major engineering project at Loch Katrine comes as a shock. However after losing eight babies before their time a change of air may suit. Isabel is intelligent but frustrated by her strict role as wife, when she encounters the mysterious but compelling Reverend Kirke she is intrigued but he is not what he seems. Suspicious Kirsty finds out that he is of the faerie and it concerns her. Meanwhile as Isabel's latest pregnancy unfolds so does that of a more fertile woman carrying her ninth child, Queen Victoria is planning on visiting Loch Katrine.
I thought this book may be far more concerned with the 'faeries' than it is and as such it is far more enjoyable than I feared. Magnusson has hit on a period in time where middle class women were only useful as wives and mothers so Isabel cannot develop her skills and interests as much as she would like. The story of Kirke is actually quite tender and his emotional torment at the end is well written. Overall an interesting tale where tradition comes up against high Victorian industry. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Mar 31, 2020 |
'''Tis thin, this place of water and stone and tree. Here meet north and south, Highland and Lowland, Gael and Scot. Here are mountains made too thin for awe; burns that idle over-prettily, the maist o'them, for the making of grand waterfalls; lochs rendered so gay by silver-green woodland that a man could forget- aye, and a woman too, my lady of the bellowing dress- the depth of their blackness. The most profound separation in all existence is at its most thin here as well. Perilously thin. This have I also discovered. And so will she.''

Scotland, Loch Katrine, 1850s. A young doctor and his wife try to bring change and radical thinking to a rural community in Stirlingshire. However, all the knowledge and progress in the world may mean little when the happiness of having a child in the family is missing. Isabel tries to accept that motherhood is a remote possibility and finds solace in the beautiful nature of the lochs and the moors, trying to become a part of her husband's work in a time when Florence Nightingale achieves the impossible;e. A time when Queen Victoria brings another child into the world. A time when a man trapped in time tries to find peace…

Sally Magnusson is of Scottish and Icelandic descent and the rich cultural heritage is brilliantly demonstrated in her writing. The story is set during the heyday of the Victorian Era when numerous changes brought progress and prosperity. However, no change comes without repercussions and doubts, and ignoring tradition is risky. The lochs hide so much beauty, so much mystery and centuries-old secrets of a world that is bound to human existence, no matter how unbelievable it may seem. Magnusson makes excellent use of the setting since Scotland is one of THE places to be when the veil between the two worlds becomes thinner. ''Which world,'' you may ask. Why, our own and the fairy kingdom, of course.

What made The Ninth Child so interesting was Magnusson's choice to have the haunting world of the past, the stories of fairies, changelings and spirits walking side - by - side with Victorian society as industrialization is taking over and science begins to acquire the means to advance. But sometimes. science can only do so much...Magnusson expertly uses Victoria and Albert's presence in their beloved Balmoral, Sir Walter Scott's love for folklore and legends, old wives' tales and customs, and the strange -partly true- story of Robert Kirke and creates a plot where the vast Scottish tradition and the mystery of our human nature meet to unpredictable results. The symbolism of Shakespeare's Cymbeline is obvious when you read the novel and lends a whimsical aura to a rather dark story.

It would have been easy for the story to end up in disaster, given certain important parts of the plot, and result in a work that would be in danger of being compared to a popular series set in Scotland, a series which I hate with a vengeance. Thankfully, Magnusson is a consummate writer. She wisely chooses to provide us with multiple perspectives and the story benefits from it. Multiple narrations and characters don't bring confusion but richness and variety. Every reader should know that...

This is a good time to be a Historical Fiction lover...

Many thanks to John Murray Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Feb 13, 2020 |
Visar 5 av 5
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