The Larach (by Alexandra Raife)

I like Alexandra Raife's books. They're mostly set in Scotland, amongst gentle, friendly people. I only discovered this author about ten years ago, and am now, gradually, re-reading her books for the second time.

I first read 'The Larach' in 2001 - it was the first Alexandra Raife book I had tried, and I thought it charming. However I couldn't remember anything about it when I picked it up again last week.

It's the story of Clare, who wakes up one morning determined that her promiscuous, alcohol-driven lifestyle has got to stop. The only way she can think of calling a halt to her excesses is to buy a remote cottage in Scotland... so that's what she does. To the consternation of the estate agent (and Clare's current employer and friend) she finds a very run-down old place, with no phone, electricity or even driveway, which is full of mildew and damp... and buys it.

The locals are not convinced that Clare will stay more than a few days; indeed, when she first experiences the extreme cold and lack of facilities, Clare isn't too sure herself. But the neighbours are very friendly, even when she's a bit condescending towards them, and she finds herself particularly drawn to Donald, a sheep-farmer, whose wife is very ill...

It's a slow-moving kind of story, in which Clare slowly comes to terms with her past - not just her immediate promiscuous past, but the events that led up to it, including the death of her husband. She gradually settles into a slower-paced life, makes friends locally, and is even offered some part-time employment before she gets too bored.

There's a rather shocking climax to the book which I didn't like, but it paves the way for the inevitable satisfactory ending.

Pleasant reading, though nothing special.

(This book is known as 'Wild Highland Home' in the USA)

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