Andrew Miller: Now We Shall Be Entirely Free ISBN 978-1-444-78466-4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ No, this book isn’t about Brexit, thanks God, even if some ideas about human narrowmindedness may seem very familiar! But the novel is rather about a manhunt, an improbable romance and most of all it is about human endurance and the quest for justice. In the end it is also about love. Captain John Lacroix returns from war, a guerilla war in Spain and Portugal, where a British expeditionary army and Spanish irregulars fight Napoleon’s troops. Lacroix has witnessed a brutal incident that might embarrass the British government if it became known to the general public. The incident involved civilian casualties, collateral damage as one would say today, and the Spanish allies cry for justice. Lacroix has to run fast and far.
Lacroix covers his track, but a British corporal and a Spanish officer have been tasked to apprehend him and suppress him. He seeks refuge in the Western Hebrides, a remote spot, where he finds a new family. But Corporal Calley and Lieutenant Medina are relentless in their pursuit and Calley has some very good personal reasons to kill Lacroix. As in any good spy thriller, nothing is what it seems. Calley was involved in the incident in Spain and Lacroix knows it. Truth will be the death verdict for one of the two.
Lacroix is perfectly aware that he is a scapegoat and to be sacrified for – for what actually? For the greater good perhaps? But then again sending an expeditionary force to Spain, undertrained and badly equipped, with weak leaders and no strategic concept wasn’t perhaps such a good idea. (Doesn’t that sound a little like Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy? 😜) It actually was a military disaster crowned by the humiliating British retreat after the Battle of Corunna and the death of the commanding general. Is it really the greater good that is at stake? It’s rather the pride of selected British officers and public servants, the unwillingness to acknowledge strategic and tactical errors.
Miller’s plot is exhilarating, but his language is even more ravishing. The way he portray’s the characters – the three men and a couple of women that play important second roles – is impressive. The way he describes the rough beauty of the Hebrides made me go back to my own memories of the place, happy memories. “Now We Shall Be Entirely Free” is a beautiful novel and reading it was a rare treat. I will most likely reread it in a few months which amounts to a great distinction given that I have so many more books to read a first time and to present perhaps here. A wonderful surprise.
The Hebrides are not quite the Orkneys, but both spots are a must for Romanticists. I connect wonderful memories to both Scottish island groups and Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy captures some of the spirit of the region: