The Prodigal Son
by Anna Belfrage
About THE PRODIGAL SON
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. The government of His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.
In Ayrshire, the people close ranks around their evicted ministers, stubbornly clinging to their Presbyterian faith. But disobedience comes at a price – a very steep price - and as neighbours and friends are driven from hearth and home, Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his continued support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.
Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and minister before his own safety and therefore per extension her safety and the safety of their children, he puts their marriage under severe strain.
The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing, watching from a distance as her husband dances round his lost boy.
Things are brought to a head when Matthew yet again places all their lives in the balance to save his dear friend and preacher from the dragoons that chase him over the moor.
How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose?
About the Author
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.
For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s WEBSITE.
The Prodigal Son is set in Scotland, during the reign of Charles II and in a period of religious persecution. So, if you expected a religious theme you’ve gotten it. I personally find religious persecution of any kind abhorrent. Like Elizabeth I quite rightly said, “I do not wish to make mirrors into men’s souls”. It was a successful policy; a lesson from history Charles II clearly learned nothing of.
This is the third book in the, Alex and Matthew Graham saga, by Anna Belfrage; but that did not impede this reader from taking this as a stand-alone novel. There are references to the first two novels, but Belfrage weaves the stories together masterfully so that I never felt I did not understand the reference. The characters are well crafted and richly developed. Alex, an independent woman from another era, and Matthew, a devoted religious man who, like so many risks everything to follow the religion of his consciousness’s choice.
In addition to the tumultuous times Matthew lives in he is further burdened with family disputes, especially between Matthew and his brother Luke and a son, Ian, whom Matthew was forced to disown and whom he desperately wants back. I enjoyed this dynamic of the novel, finding it rare to have two men as the characters at odds with one another. I must confess I know little to nothing about this time period of Scottish history but felt Belfrage’s narrative well researched and it more than aptly descriptive that I felt transported back to the period.
In the end this is a novel about devotion, faith and loss and the senseless deaths of innocent people who merely wanted to practice the religion of their choosing, but also of unity of purpose and how the support and love of family sustains through the worst of times. Belfrage has given her readers a rare mix of historical fiction and personal struggle that make the book relatable to a variety of readers in addition to the historical fiction fan.
I am eager to read the first two novels in the series and would recommend The Prodigal Son without hesitation.
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