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Five and a half years ago I was reminded of this book's existence by clanwilliam, and as I was recovering from jetlag at her place last weekend, she kindly lent it to me and I zoomed through it as I lay on her spare bed. I have to confess that I still would have difficulty placing the 1547-48 siege of St Andrews in the wider narrative of Scottish history; but I guess McGregor's evocation of a town pushed beyond breaking point by a religious conflict must have chimed with me as a teenager in Belfast, and I found it just as good today. In particular, she doesn't allow either side a monopoly of good or evil; the leaders of both Protestants and Catholics are more likely to be evil and indeed arrogant, but there's plenty of viciousness at lower levels as well. The core of the story is the path to maturity of the young hero, a Bildungsroman played out in times of civil war. I don't think I ever read any other books by McGregor but now I wish I had.

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