Bridal Path by Nigel Tranter – 20 Books of Summer 2023

Bridal Path by Nigel Tranter was first published in 1952 but my copy is a 1996 reprint. The cover illustration is from a painting by the Scottish artist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell called The Dunara Castle at Iona. Nigel Tranter wrote a huge amount of historical fiction, but this one was a contemporary novel, and it was such a good laugh, just what I needed.

It’s set in the 1940s, on a remote Hebridean island called Eorsa.  Ewan MacEwan had been a prisoner of war, which was bad enough but now he is a widower and is having a tough time looking after his young son and daughter and running his farm too. Kirsty and Ewanie are more than a handful for him and if they’re not getting lost among a whole load of sheep they’re falling into the sheep dip. According to his uncle it’s time he looked for a new wife, but there has been so much inter-marriage on the small island that there’s nobody left that Ewan isn’t already related to, and he draws the line at marrying a cousin. So it is decided that he will go to the mainland to look for a wife. All the men are giving him advice on what to look for in a wife, all things that might help in the running of a farm such as having strong legs, a deep chest (?) not from the terrible island of Erinsmore, not a Campbell and not a Catholic!

Ewan has been given directions to an inn at Oban on the mainland and has been asked to deliver a salmon to the woman there, this sets off a police chase as they’re sure he’s a poacher from Glasgow and Ewan ends up running all over the hills ranging for miles and miles. He finds shelter in various remote cottages and meets up with some women such as he has never met before. As you can imagine with women living in remote locations some of them are determined to make the most of this manna from heaven in the shape of a man (with money) looking for a wife. Ewan is fairly terrified at times!

There’s such a lot of humour in this book, it was quite a tonic really. There’s a lot of dialogue in a Highland dialect which is really just with the English words being said in a different order and I think it’s easy to get used to the rythym of it.