King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett

King Hereafter cover

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett was first published in 1982 and as is usual with Dunnett’s books it’s a weighty tome with 721 pages. I loved this one, it’s one of those books that I just didn’t want to end and I felt quite bereft when it did – and of course it’s a stand alone book so I won’t be able to meet up with any of the characters in the future. I’m so glad that we travelled to Orkney last year because I had been to all of the locations mentioned there and everywhere else in Scotland, even the small historic town nearest to where I live got a mention.

In this book the author has decided that the Viking Thorfinn Sigurdsson and Macbeth are one and the same person, with Thorfinn taking the name Macbeth when he was baptised a Christian.

Times were very violent in 11th century Scotland and leaders/kings often didn’t last all that long back then with Viking raiders and more local rivals vying to be top dog. So as with Dorothy Dunnett’s other books – it’s all go – never a dull moment.

I found this one to be a lot more straightforward than some of her others. The endpapers feature a detailed family tree of the Kings of Scotland (Alba) and the Earls of Northumbria (England), but I didn’t need to refer to them. I can imagine that I’ll re-read this one though as I’m sure I’ll get even more enjoyment out of it the next time around.

As it happens I was walking in Birnam Wood a couple of days ago, but I did a post about it way back in 2010 (where does the time go?!) so if you want to have a look at some of the ancient trees have a look here. The photos don’t give an impression of how big they are.

8 thoughts on “King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett

  1. I’m making a note of this one, Katrina–
    It covers the same span of time as When Christ and the Saints Slept and Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman. Life was so turbulent for the average person in those dark days of constant, intermittent warfare, all over really, though I imagine Scotland might have been even more so. I do feel for the tenant farmer in England, Wales, and Scotland, just trying somehow, almost impossibly, to do enough for his family’s sustenance.
    And, yes, I’m going to ask you again. Was poor weather the reason why you read this one so quickly? I do wish I could get through books a bit more quickly than I do.

    • Judith,
      It was a combination of the weather being too hot to do any gardening!! – and Jack watching THREE football matches a day for more than a week as it was the Football (soccer) World Cup for over a month. I just opened the windows and doors in the sun room and jumped into 11th century Scotland. So do you recommend the Sharon Kay Penman book? I haven’t read anything by her. I always read for at least half an hour after my breakfast and again at bedtime and also during the day for a bit if we aren’t going out anywhere or doing anything around the house. It’s amazing how quickly you can read books when you do that.

      • Well, Katrina, Jack was certainly in his element–he must’ve enjoyed it enormously.
        And now I picture you reading that tome in the garden house. I hope your weather has cooled off some, so you can tend to the garden.

        I do recommend Sharon Kay Penman’s books in this series. (I haven’t read her other series.) The first is When Christ and the Saints Slept, and it is set during the wars that tore Britain and France apart during the years when Stephen and Maude, children of Henry I, were battling for control of England, of course, but also provinces in France.
        I liked Time and Chance just as much, perhaps because it was a little less bloody. You get Penman’s interpretation of the Henry II vs. Becket “wars,” and her view of Eleanor. I think her work is very, very well done.
        They are dense 500+ page reads, and I advise you not to read the paperbacks. Pages too narrow–awful. I strongly urge the hardcovers. I have been able so far to borrow mine from the libraries in the area.
        Jane, of “Reading, Working, Playing” blog (I’m close, but I may be missing a word in the name of the blog) has loved this series as well. She has already read the third novel in the series, which I have yet to read, and won’t get to until next summer, probably. It’s called The Devil’s Brood, about the adult children of Henry II. I think Penman does so well creating the mood, atmosphere, and landscape of this time period.

        • Judith,

          Thanks, I’ve taken a note of those books and will get to them – sometime.
          It was another warm day today but pleasantly so as there was a wind. On the Scottish news tonight they said that people in Fife were being asked to be careful with their water consumption – and not long after that it began to rain here. The gardens need it – as well as the reservoirs. It’s to be warm again for the rest of the week though.

  2. I read this last year. I feel like I should reread it but I always feel that way with Dorothy Dunnett’s books. There is so much I miss the first time through. The previous comment mentions Sharon Kay Penman. I haven’t read her in years but I remember her books as being very good. Nice, chunky books full of fascinating history.

    • Jennifer,

      Thanks for that info. I’ll definitely try Sharon Kay Penman at some point. I’m sure that when I do re-read King Hereafter I will enjoy it even more.

  3. I loved this book too and I’m also looking forward to re-reading it at some point. I’ve never been to Orkney but I can imagine that being familiar with the setting must have made the book even more enjoyable for you.

    • Helen,
      It really did add to my enjoyment. If you’re interested in history and archaeology (I’m sure you are) then Orkney is a great place to visit although to begin with the scenery looks a bit strange.

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