Currently Reading: Alec Forbes of Howglen
"What's come ower Annie?" said the one to the other when she had gone.
Author: George MacDonald
Synopsis: When little Annie Anderson's father dies, leaving her an orphan, her aunt sends her to live with her tightfisted cousin. Schoolmate Alec Forbes becomes her champion when she is mistreated in the classroom, and before long Alec is both her hero and best friend. But as Annie searches for salvation and the love of God, Alec goes off to college, where a romance and an enemy lead him in other directions. Alec's life and soul hang on the mercy of God and the love and prayers of his friends.
Notes: My parents read this book out to my sisters and I when I was little. I had only vague memories of it, but at several recent reminders, decided to search for it on Kindle for PC. It was free. Win.
As someone for whom the primary interest of a novel is always in the characters, this is my kind of book. That's not to say that there is no plot. There is, and this used-to-be-certified whitewater rescue technician held her breath more than once. But the characters are what will keep you going through the point-of-view jumps and the broad Scotch.
More, Alec Forbes and Annie Anderson are my kind of characters. Annie, especially, is just about everything I could ever want to be. Her search for salvation particularly hit home for me. I loved Alec, too—and then I wanted to hit him—and then I feared for him—and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I'll leave it there. Alec and Annie are far from being the only greats, too; I'm not sure I've ever seen MacDonald's equal for creating complex people. Thomas Crann, Mr. Cupples, and Murdoch Malison (how would you like to be named that?) walked off the page as living redeemable souls whose hearts were bigger than their terrible failures.
The tale makes for a challenging read, owing to the dialogue's being almost entirely in the auld Scotch dialect. Words like bairn (child) and muckle (much, many) can take a little getting used to, but to add to the fun, sometimes recognizable English words mean something totally different: gin for if, war for were, crap for crept, etc.
The ending was perfect, brilliant, beautiful—and far too short. It strongly tempts me to write fan fiction, but I haena ower muckle time f'r sich.
Recommendation: Gin ye ken y'r auld Scotch, ye haena onything t' stop ye. If not, you'll learn by context, or by the glossary in the back—or you can probably find versions where everything is translated into English. In all events, I highly recommend the book.