REIVER, by David Pilling
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical fiction work, REIVER by David Pilling. The setting is the Anglo-Scottish border in 1570. This is the tumultuous period early in the reign of Elizabeth Tudor when the supporters of Catholic Mary Stewart were actively hatching plots and gathering armies to overthrow her.
Mr. Pilling paints a fascinating picture of life for the villagers, farmers and reivers in the brutal border area. The inhabitants struggled to survive while forces beyond their control strove for dominance. The writing is excellent. His descriptions are at once haunting and grim but not without a stark beauty, as well. The dialogue is first rate and has just the right level of local color to feel authentic. I enjoyed his attention to detail with his characters’ clothes and weapons, the horses’ rigging, the weather and the utter misery of living outdoors. The people of the time display attitudes toward life and death, justice and fairness that rattle and shake our modern minds. I find it so refreshing to read a period novel that is true to the period.
I really loved the book. The main character, Richie Reade, is caught in a grinder of petty raids, political upheaval, blood feuds and just plain bad luck. Mr. Pilling manages to do more than recite historical happenings, he forces you live them with Richie as he strives to fashion a sensible life in a turbulent time. History has never been so graphic and tactile, so approachable and yet frustrating.
I admire the author’s ability to bring the times to life, to populate it with memorable characters as well as historical figures, and still make the whole enterprise a fast page-turning experience. I highly recommend the book.