John Dempster hosted the Inverness launch of Mhairead MacLeod's novel The False Men at Waterstone's last night on behalf of Highland Lit.
There was a warm and appreciative audience for Mhairead's short talk and readings from the book.
The False Men, a dramatic and readable novel set largely on North Uist is based on historical characters and a true story. Jess MacKay is one of the daughters of the factor, James Mackay. She’s had a protected upbringing, but nevertheless has done more than anyone else in her family to connect with the crofters and to understand their culture and lifestyle. Jess’s father wants her to marry the landowner’s commissioner, Patrick Cooper, but instead she finds herself drawn to Lachlan Macdonald, a farmer’s son from Skye.
Will Jess, for the first time in her life, be the conventional daughter or will she choose instead to follow her head and her heart?
The False Men is set at the end of the 1840s, immediately following the potato famine when the people, in desperate poverty, are cleared from their crofts and compelled to emigrate. This is a deeply-researched novel which wears its learning lightly. The author empathises with the plight of the crofters as she examines the complicity of landowners, factors, and the Established Church in what happened. It’s also a novel about an early feminism asserting itself in a male-dominated world.
And it culminates in a dramatic trial which took place a quarter of a mile from where the launch was taking place
What more could you want?
Mhairead was raised on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides and in Inverness. She now lives in Brisbane, Australia where she has been an ethics lawyer and investigator. She has also worked as a university lecturer and holds Masters degrees in Law and Creative Writing.
An earlier draft of The False Men won a Hachette Manuscript Development Award.