His Bloody Project is a fantastic example of writing that creates a realistic sense of time and place. If you want to experience a nineteenth-century murder trial in rural Scotland, pick this up.
Authors and writers, if you’re having trouble with crafting a sense of time or a setting that feels grounded in reality, this book really demonstrates how to bring the past to life through specific details, word choice, and especially narration and point of view.
Readers, if you like to suspend your disbelief, this is the book for you. If you want your socks to be blow off (not literally), read this and tell me what you think (and don't read the section below).
If you like Outlander, or if you like historical crime novels, this is a good choice. Although it’s listed as a memoir, it reads like a crime novel, which isn't usually something I would pick up, but it's now become one of my favorite books.
What I want to tell people about this book.
Warning, spoilers ahead.
Sometimes I'm so glad I don't listen to myself.
When I lived in Dubai, I was a member of three book clubs (silly, I know). Time constraints forced me to pick and choose which books I could actually read in time.
So, when the email hit my in box and my eyes slid over the title His Bloody Project, I thought, I’m not into crime, or gore, or violence. I’m going to give that a miss.
Typically I don’t read book blurbs or reviews only because I don’t want my reading experience to be influenced.
I try not to let titles put me off, either, but I faced failure this time …
What convinced me to pick it up in the end I can't say.
Perhaps that it was based in Scotland. At the time, I was losing myself to the burnished orange of the surrounding sand dunes of the UAE; the lack of green was akin to a lack of oxygen.
Perhaps that it had been nominated for the Booker Prize was enough of a nudge, though the Booker and I have a bit of a difficult past.
Whatever it was, after the first few pages I was hooked.
As you read this book, I can't promise you won't do the same thing I did: frantically using Google Maps to discover the road where the family farm once stood; agonizingly looking for satellite images to discover the ruins of a house abandoned and overgrown.
The night the book club met for this discussion was smallest number in attendance ever. Others had had similar concerns about the book not being ‘my kind of thing.’
It is not a memoir. But it sure made me think it was.
I’m so glad that I not only read but also attended the discussion. My misunderstanding of the truth behind the story was very amusing to the other attendees.
The trials and tribulations of the characters were as real to me as my own life. How could this NOT have happened? I read it believing it to be real. I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t.
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