The Flax Flower

Written by Amanda MacLean
Review by Jo Barton

In The Flax Flower, trumpeter to the new Laird of Fyvie, handsome and charismatic Andrew Lamb, and the Miller of Tifty’s beautiful daughter, Agnes Smith, meet in secret in the woods near the Brig of Skeugh. The young lovers have much to lose if discovered, and yet their passion runs deep and the love they feel for each other, regardless of public opinion, is both honourable and all consuming.

Based on the legend of the ballad Mill of Tifty’s Annie, this story evokes seventeenth century Scotland in vibrant detail and brings to glorious life the myths, superstitions and legends of a community at odds with itself. The book is beautifully presented, rich in vernacular and alive with detail and so vibrant that the story literally leaps off the page and tugs heavy on the heartstrings. I was entranced by the story of Mill of Tifty’s Annie and such is the power of the narrative that, regardless of whether you understand the complexities of Scottish dialect, what emerges is a powerful love story with a cruel and unexpected twist.

The writing throughout is impeccable and there is no doubt that there has been much research undertaken into the background, not just of the ballad and all that it signifies, but also of the historical period in which the story is set. Time and place is captured so evocatively that, all too easily, you are transported back to a dark and careless time when life was a struggle and even the smallest snippets of hope could be eradicated at the whim of immoral and deceitful individuals. I read the book in the space of one afternoon, quite simply because I couldn’t put it down.

Overall, this is a commendable historical novel and I have no hesitation in recommending it as a fine example of historical fiction by an exciting new author.