Kaite Welsh

Fleming’s Choice

Fair Helen


Quercus 291pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Andrew Greig’s version of a Scottish Border song ‘The Ballad of Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’ is a tense, atmospheric study of a political powder keg and the love triangle that threatens to ignite it. In one of the best historical novels of recent years, Greig dusts off the past and presents it with tremendous skill.

Although the ‘Auld Hag’ Elizabeth I refuses to name her successor to the English crown, King James VI of Scotland is poised to unite the two countries, and minor lairds are jostling for favour and position. It is this world to which Harry Langton, scholar turned reluctant spy, returns when an old friend, Adam Fleming, falls in love with Langton’s cousin, the beautiful Helen of Annandale, who is promised to a titled man eager for any advancement he can get. Greig’s story moves from the late 16th century and his narrator’s youth and naivety to his last days, when he has sought refuge in Hawthornden Castle, where he prepares to tell the truth – or at least, his truth – about the complex, contradictory woman whom folklore commemorates as Fair Helen. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,