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Rob Roy by Walter Scott
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Rob Roy (1817)

by Walter Scott

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1,706204,170 (3.52)1 / 141
  1. 10
    Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist (thorold)
    thorold: Rob Roy MacGregor and Michael Kohlhaas are both peaceful traders who turn to outlawry as a reaction to the abuse of feudal power. Scott certainly knew about Kleist's novella when he wrote Rob Roy.
  2. 00
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska, Baroness Orczy (morryb)
  3. 00
    Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (morryb)
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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
It may come as a surprise, but the title character of Rob Roy doesn’t actually make an appearance in Walter Scott’s novel until almost halfway through the book. For the first half, the book should really be called “Francis Osbaldistone,” for that is who narrates the story and who is at the forefront of the adventure. Francis’s father, a banker, wants him to take up a position at the family firm, but Francis dreams of a more fulfilling (if less financially stable) life as a writer. He is then sent to the ancestral home of his uncle, Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, in Northumberland, while his cousin, Rashleigh, is sent to take his place in the bank. Soon after, Rashleigh is revealed to be a scheming embezzler and all-around jerk, and Francis must travel to Glasgow to restore the honour of the firm. His trip then lands him in the orbit of the famous Rob Roy MacGregor, the Robin Hood of Scotland, and that is where the story really picks up (at least for me, since Rob Roy was the reason I was reading in the first place).

This is the sort of book that demands attention. Its pace is measured but can be sprightly in places, particularly when Rob Roy is around and battle scenes are raging. The dialogue can be a bit tricky, given that a great deal of it is Scottish dialect, but most can be figured out in context. Some editions of this book include a glossary, should you require one; others may provide more detailed notes about the historical background and cultural references that Francis makes in his narrative (which arguably gave me more trouble than the dialect).

It contains moments that will raise a cheer, prompt a tear or even cause a fist to be raised in fury. It contains beautiful descriptions of Loch Lomond and the Scottish highlands that will whet the appetite for either photographs or a visit in person (the latter being highly recommended). It may also lead you to find out more about Scottish history. The book covers the period leading up to the First Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, so anyone with an interest in Culloden (1746) may do well to check out the events of a few decades prior.

This book is also recommended for those who have enjoyed other novels by Scott, and those who like Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson, which is also set in the Scottish highlands but covers events after Culloden. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Dec 31, 2014 |
I will start by saying that I found the dialect that a lot of the conversation in the book really quite hard to get my head around. I'm still not entirely sure what some words were supposed to be indicating, but I think I got the gist of most of it. Having got that significant gripe out of the way, this is a strange book. Interesting, at times exciting, but framed as the reminiscences of an older man to a younger friend - and the framing occasionally interrupted the story. It is titled Rob Roy, proclaiming to be the story of Robert Macgregor, yet the story is told by Frank Osbaldistone and Rob Roy barely gets a look in over the last few chapters. Once you get over the slight self adsorption, it's a tale that's got it all - romance, mystery, disguised identity, trouble, danger, battles, redemption, a beautiful & spirited maiden, and irredeemable baddie, and an honest hero. It is always interesting to see how much of this creeps into cultural memory via other means, the tale felt slightly familiar, the shape of it at least, such is the times that it has been referenced in other works. The style of writing and particularly the dialect made this not an easy read, but it was a good read, and it did have me wanting to know how it would resolve itself. I have a fancy to read more Scott, having now read this and Ivanhoe, both of which have that air e=of excitement and derring do about them. ( )
  Helenliz | Oct 17, 2014 |
I was a little surprised in reading this novel at the perspectives reflected in the narrator’s story. Scott, writing in the early 18th century, takes the voice of an English businessman writing a reminiscing letter to a friend about his adventures as a youth early in the 17th century. Occasionally, the narrator reflects on his romanticism as a youth and his current settled life, so we are reminded that the perspective is that of a mature, successful and cultivated English gentleman.
As the narrator, he portrays the Scots as foolish and bumbling thieves, canny but crass business men, or wild violent savages. The only exception is the title character, Rob Roy, or Red Rob, or Robert Campbell MacGregor, a wise but just outlaw, a Scottish Robin Hood, beloved by the country people, scourge of the wealthy city dwellers and especially of the English, fearless fighter and brilliant campaigner. For a Scots nationalist, this seems a peculiar way to portray the people he wants to inspire. While MacGregor is a heroic and mythic figure, the rest of the Scots come off as crude, backward and vicious, although good fighters as described by his English narrator. (And for balance, the English in relation to the Scots seem to come across as arbitrary oppressors and often not a lot brighter than the Scottish Highlanders.) Is Scott suggesting that Scots need to move ahead from their heroic but backward past and join the modern, if grubby, world of business?
Perhaps so, but the life of business is not very appealing either. The businessmen here may be wealthy, but they seem to have a very limited perspective, whether Scottish or English. The narrator initially rebels against his father’s insistence on joining his business. But Scott, a successful businessman himself (until his publishing business went bankrupt later in his life), makes it clear that the narrator’s romantic youth is a diversion and that his later success came from the family business. So is Scott here telling us that Scots (and we readers) need to put aside romantic notions and do the hard work of creating wealth, after which we can perhaps enjoy a quiet, cultured life? Or, since the narrator does in the end get the woman he loved in his romantic youth, perhaps we can take some of that romance with us in to our more business-like life.
Also interesting is the detached position of the narrator. Although the narrator tells the story in the first person, he is only an observer. But for the first 200 pages, Rob Roy has only a brief appearance using a pseudonym, and thereafter appears only in short passages (although always to save the day). The narrator’s only active role, to recover his father’s papers, ends when they are presented to him without a struggle. Someone else always intervenes before he has to act himself. In between are scenes that could pass for social satire and comic relief, often given in broad dialect. Is this Scott’s message – that the English are lucky to be saved always by someone else while they acquire wealth and power?
Perhaps it’s not fair to put these post-modern questions in relation to an author who was creating the genre of the historical novel 200 years ago. Scott apparently wrote at great length with little editing, so maybe this is just where the story took him, and he didn’t concern himself with how the story might reflect on his nationalistic ideals. Perhaps he thought he was just writing a realistic description of the past. His descriptive language, for example, suggests that. He does not romanticize the bleakness of the lowland moors or the primitive Scottish inn where his narrator stays, but he does describe the beauty of the Scottish lakes and mountains. His descriptions of rural life and the role of women (highly prescribed, if not entirely passive) also reflect a realist point of view.
So the points of view and the narrative style are peculiar to a modern reader, although in the end they make an interesting and picturesque read. The mix of social observation and tame adventure explain why Scott was such a popular writer in his time. ( )
  rab1953 | Oct 9, 2014 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2356805.html

The referendum took place while I was in the middle of reading this, and I vaguely hoped it might give some insight into the histories of the England/Scotland relationship. But gawd, this is awful. Yeah, yeah, naive English lad ventures first to Northumberland and then Scotland and discovers that people talk funny and may not actually love London up there. The Jacobites rise and are defeated. Rob Roy himself doesn't appear in the book until surprisingly near the end. The writing style is florid and tedious. At least I can say I tried. ( )
  nwhyte | Oct 5, 2014 |
When Rob Roy was first published in 1817, it sold all ten thousand copies within two weeks -- a truly remarkable feat for that time and place. This was a tribute not only to Scott's story telling abilities, but perhaps even more to the legend of Rob Roy himself. Many of Scott's readers would have heard tales and ballads of the MacGregor. All would have had a strong opinion about his exploits.

The story emerges as the elderly Frank Osbaldistone recounts an adventure from his youth to a young man. At the beginning of his tale, Frank has just had any connection to his father's extremely profitable London trading house severed, since he would rather be a poet than engage in trade. He has been sent to the English border country to recruit one of his cousins to be trained in his stead. The contrast of the rude and callow country cousins to all that Frank has known to date is harsh enough, but when he has to flee across the border into Scotland, due to the machinations of his one intelligent cousin, the feckless Frank is at a complete loss. The story line itself presages Dickens (not a bad thing!) with its stock characters, including a beautiful and seemingly unattainable female, but as in Dickens, each of these characters works to build the story.

Rob himself is first encountered just before the flight to Scotland, but Frank does not connect him to the famous brigand. As the story moves north into lowland Glasgow and from there to the highland regions around Loch Lomond, Frank discovers a world he had never imagined, peopled by characters as alien as his picture of an "American Indian", many of whom speak a language he cannot understand.

Scott portrays a Scotland recently politically united with England, but still so torn apart internally by civil war and religious strife that many are unable to come to terms with each other, let alone with England. Jacobites and Hanoverians, Papists and Covenanters, highlanders and lowlanders, all are at odds in a world of shifting identities and loyalties. Rob Roy moves through this world like a wraith, dealing with all sides despite his outlaw status and surviving all to die in his bed years after Frank's adventure. Since we only see Rob through Frank's eyes, we only see his actions as they relate to Frank. When Frank must once more make his escape across the border and back to England, it is Rob and his Jacobite connections who clear the way.

I first read this novel when I was about ten, and was completely caught up in the danger and adventure, all of which I have left out here for fear of spoilers. While I had grasped the general idea of the political and religious divides, this reading added the whole new dimension of an economically divided country and the economic consequences of union with England, especially interesting with today's devolution debate.

It was wonderful to reread Rob Roy. My only regret was that I couldn't do it in the hundred page plus chunks of my childhood and had to settle instead for brief episodes. This had the effect of somewhat breaking up the narrative tension. I will be reading more Scott in the time to come.
  SassyLassy | Sep 12, 2014 |
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Walter Scottprimary authorall editionscalculated
Duncan, IanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Was hab ich denn gesündigt, daß dies Unglück
So schwer auf mir liegt? Keine andren Söhne
Hab' ich, und der ist nicht mehr mein. Verflucht,
Wer sich so umgewandelt! - Du auf Reisen!
Bald will ich auch mein Pferd auf Reisen senden. (Monsieur Thomas)
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You have requested me, my dear friend, to bestow some of that leisure, with which Providence has blessed the decline of my life, in registering the hazards and difficulties which attended its commencement. The recollection of those adventures, as you are pleased to term them, has indeed left upon my mind a chequered and varied feeling of pleasure and of pain, mingled, I trust, with no slight gratitude and veneration to the Disposer of human events, who guided my early course through much risk and labour, that the ease with which he has blessed my prolonged life might seem softer from remembrance and contrast. Neither is it possible for me to doubt, what you have often affirmed, that the incidents which befell me among a people singularly primitive in their government and manners, have something interesting and attractive for those who love to hear an old man’s stories of a past age.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140435549, Paperback)

This novel, first published in 1817, achieved a huge success and helped establish the historical novel as a literary form. In rich prose and vivid description, Rob Roy follows the adventures of a businessman's son, Frank Osbaldistone, who is sent to Scotland and finds himself drawn to the powerful, enigmatic figure of Rob Roy MacGregor, the romantic outlaw who fights for justice and dignity for the Scots. This is an incomparable portrait of the haunted Highlands and Scotland's glorious past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:32 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

First pub 1817. Historical romantic adventure. Features Scotland's legendary highlander. Film adaption starrring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hunt and Tim Roth, currently showing in Perth.

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