The Thistle and the Rose: Six Centuries of Love and Hate between Scots and English by Allan Massie - review by John Dugdale

John Dugdale

A Triple-Decker Tale

The Thistle and the Rose: Six Centuries of Love and Hate between Scots and English

By

John Murray, 305pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

The Hours, the novel (or maybe ‘novel’) with which Michael Cunningham made his name, was a triple-decker structure with a famous author and book at its centre. Narrative strands set in 1923, 1949 and the present were linked by Virginia Woolf, who was the protagonist in the 1923 section, and by her novel Mrs Dalloway and its theme of preparing for a party.

Understandably reluctant to relinquish a formula that earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a sales-boosting movie adaptation, Cunningham plumps for a very similar approach in Specimen Days. The presiding spirit this time is Walt Whitman, who lends the novel its title and appears in one strand, albeit only as a

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