(The Annals of the Parish, John Galt)
It’s always exciting to read a story set in a place you know well, and The Annals of the Parish fits the bill for me. I spent a lot of my childhood visiting Ayrshire and, although the location of The Annals of the Parish is fictional, it feels familiar. Published in 1821, it’s the fictional memoirs of a Church of Scotland minister, dealing with the years from 1760 to 1810. Rather than presenting his personal history, the author/narrator focuses on the events that occur in the town. It is therefore a fictionalised history of a small town that would rarely make it into the history books.
Wider global events are engaged with only as they affect the residents of Dalmailing. So, for example, the Napoleonic Wars are addressed, because they induce fear in the locals. The American Warsof Independence is discussed because a character arrives in Dalmailing after fleeing it. The development of the textile industry in Scotland at the time has a highly significant effect on the narrative, given the major changes that result for the local residents. It’s really interesting to see this perspective on history and how bigger events affect the lives of ordinary people. Although, of course, it’s important to remember that this is a fictional told by narrator who may not always be entirely reliable.
Overall, this book wasn’t a page turner, but I enjoyed reading it. It was a fascinating window into Ayrshire life during the late eighteenth century and has inspired me to seek out other classics of Scots literature.