Book Review–“Mine is the Night”

I have been anxiously awaiting the sequel to Liz Curtis Higgs’s Here Burns My Candle for the past year. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of Mine is the Night from WaterBrook Press, and I couldn’t wait to get started!

As always, Higgs does an excellent job of setting a well-known Bible story (Ruth and Naomi this time) in 18th century Scotland. Her attention to detail, from the dialogue, (written with Scottish inflection), to the clothing, to the setting, to actual Scottish history (the Jacobite uprising) is amazing. You really start to feel as though you are there when reading one of her novels.

Her attention to detail in remaining faithful to the Biblical account is also outstanding. While Biblical fiction is one of my favorite genres of novel, I’m always a little nervous that the author hasn’t done his or her research, or taken too many liberties with the story, or added details that may actually contradict with the Bible. I never have that problem with a Liz Curtis Higgs novel, however! I will say that she has me returning to my Bible over and over again, wondering if “that was really in the story”–even for stories I thought I knew really well. But the answer is always yes–that did happen! I’m not saying that the story of Ruth was actually set in 16th century Scotland, (this is classified as fiction, after all), but when it comes to the important details of the story and the characters, it remains faithful to Scripture, which is a must for me.

I thought this book was a bit stronger than the first of the two-part series. I was able to “get into” the sequel must faster–maybe because I was already familiar with the characters, or maybe because the sequel deals more directly with the Bible story, whereas the first book dealt more with back story that isn’t in the Bible. Overall, I will admit that I still like the “Lowlands of Scotland” series better–while I loved the characterizations of Ruth and Naomi, there was something about the story of Jacob and his family that was so beautiful and moving, I can’t imagine ever liking another book (or books) better.

“Here Burns My Candle” Blog Book Tour

I have been waiting for Liz Curtis Higgs’ new book, Here Burns My Candle, for years. Literally. Her last Scottish novel, Grace in Thine Eyes, came out in March 2006, and ever since, I have been anxiously awaiting whatever she had in store next. If WaterBrook hadn’t kindly provided me with a copy (a pre-release, no less! A dream come true for me!), I certainly would have pre-ordered it from Amazon. Obviously, my expectations for the book were high.

I was once again astounded by Liz’s attention to detail–particularly her use of Scottish dialect and knowledge of Scottish history, among other things. Her characters, as always, are interesting, likable, flawed, and very, very real.

The story was very engaging. It focuses on the well-to-do Kerr family–matriarch Marjory, her two sons, Donald, who is the source of much gossip for his many rumored affairs, and Andrew, and their wives, Elisabeth, whose lowly past and secret pagan life make her an unlikely match for the aristocratic Donald, and Janet, whose life’s purpose is to be a high society woman.

The story takes place around the Jacobite uprising in Scotland, with Elisabeth being sympathetic to the cause of Bonny Prince Charlie, and the men of her family eventually also deciding to join in the uprising. Parts of the story follow the Biblical narrative of Ruth (but only through verse 18 of chapter one), and other parts illustrate a story you might expect to hear from the descendants of a Scottish family who lived through these events, and all the repercussions said events would have on a family, from social status to finances.

All that being said, I was disappointed with one thing. This is supposed to be Biblical fiction–a retelling of the story of Ruth in a 18th century Scottish setting. I didn’t feel that the book was able to delve into the Biblical account nearly enough–there was so much backstory and character development that you could almost forget that it’s supposed to be based on a Bible story until the end of the book. As far as flat-out historical fiction, this book is excellent, but as Biblical fiction, it was a bit lacking. I’m hoping that problem will be corrected in the sequel, Mine is the Night, coming out next spring. I know I’ll be counting down the days until then!