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l-Jortraying childhood or

the end of an era is; a potential mire of sentiirientality into which the unsuspecting adult novelist can too- easily sink. But Anna Smith does both and never becomes hog- l)ound. Kath. her 1() year-old protagonist hiring in a late—(30:; mining village on the verge of extinction. is the perfect vehicle. Innocent and largely unharmed, Kath is the naive. but not dispassionate. observer of the domestic, Violent world around her. Without real understanding, she has a child's anger but no moral condemnation. That is left to the reader. Most hrilliant in Kath's life is the coruscating‘; trajectory of Tony, an American kid who moves into the village one suiiiriier, and it it; his stoq that keeps the book lel\.'t’. Kath's world may he tllt‘lltllt), hut Smith makes it seem excitineg modern while exposing its best and worst ’at‘ett; to the light. It's a world seen through the rosy eyes of youth, but whose passing is not marked wrth tears. (Thom Dihdini


The Prophet Muhammad

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At a time when the only thing louder than the sound of guns locking and loading is the neise Of minds slamming shut. Barnaby Rogerson's The Prophet Muhanrrrvaafi- A Brographt is a welcome arrival.

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slim, well told tale rather than a dr‘, hernia inducing scholarly exegesna it Will help in llll(l(?lf;l£lll(lllltl one of the cultures unthosae clash we're all getting

caught iii Rogerson lia‘:

travelled far enough in {llllltlllfr lands to notice history doesn't stay in a neat and dusty hox marked 'the past'. hut connects directly ‘.'.'llll us in the here and now HIE; style it; we, and enthusiastic and. more importantly, rational and humane Since rt doesn't take a gilt tor prophecy to see


EMMA WILSON Cinema's Missing Children

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JAMES ROBERTSON Joseph Knight il ()llllll l state 5‘ mom 0....

As The Fanatic gracefully illustrated, James Robertson is an effective exploder of Scotland's sacred historical episodes. With his latest work, he sets out to challenge the Scots’ most cherished self-deception: that time- honoured notion we have of ourselves as

sidelined and oppressed.

Joseph Knight opens at the point at which popular Scots history tends to take a well-

earned fag break, with the crushing of the 1745

Jacobite uprising. What actually followed was a mix of the unglamorous (Enlightenment and the consolidation of the union) and the downright unpalatable (the Scots' enthusiastic embracing of empire building and participation

in the slave trade).

Robertson vividly dramatises these phenomena, drawing together the various threads of his re-enactment with a hitherto forgotten historical episode, the fascinating tale of John Wedderburn, exiled to Jamaica after Culloden, who flourishes as a plantation owner and returns triumphant to the auld country, accompanied by the slave Joseph Knight. As the focus of Wedderburn’s Pygmalion-like indulgence, the enigmatic Knight is initially educated alongside his

master’s daughters. But when the worm begins

to turn, eloping with a housemaid then demanding his freedom, an incensed Wedderburn resorts to the law to hasten his

property‘s return.

Robertson fleshes out this simple event to create a resplendent, intricate portrait of life in the latter half of the 18th century. The narrative moves back and forth in time and place, handed from character to memorable character across the social classes, with scene-stealing cameos from Messrs Hume, Boswell and Johnson. In short, it’s a hell of a read and a compelling introduction to a rich historical period. (Allan Radcliffe)

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Exploding Scotland’s sacred history

. ' - THE LIST 99