The Great Scot

Written by Duncan A. Bruce
Review by Ilysa Magnus

I approached this story of Robert the Bruce with great hope and interest. The fact that Robert’s descendant wrote this book intrigued me even more. Robert Bruce’s story is well-documented. While Wallace started the insurgency against the English, Bruce ended it, in the process obtaining independence for Scotland and recognition of its sovereignty. Since we know the history, Duncan Bruce decided to tell the story of this great Scots national hero through David Crawford, a fictional character who becomes one of Bruce’s closest confederates.

When Crawford narrates the book at age 84, it is solely in hindsight. As with many narratives told from that perspective – particularly when Davie joined Bruce at age 14 as his page – it unfortunately becomes a series of “first this happened,” “then this happened,” and “finally that happened.” It’s boring.

Yes, we get to see Bruce through the eyes of his most trusted man, engaging in military strategy talks, sleeping with a variety of his most beloved women (and there were several, to whom he was loyal and devoted in his own fashion), leading his men gloriously into battle, sparring with the Pope and his envoys.

There is no doubt that Robert was the savior of his nation. It is an exciting story, the stuff of which legend is made. But the writing is stilted and unimaginative. Famous words spoken by Robert Bruce at important functions are quoted in the midst of the English narrative, word by word in Scottish – probably from the Barbour annals – throwing the reader off completely. If that was how Duncan Bruce intended to communicate the legitimacy of his sources and story, it was the wrong way to do it. I’m actually sad that I was disappointed in this book.