In the Footsteps of Robert Bruce, by Alan Young and Michael Stead. Published by Sutton Publishing Limited, 260 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10001, 212-213-2775. $34.95, hardcover. 190 pages.
As with any famous personalitiy who has gained the reputation of a national hero, Scotland’s Robert Bruce has evolved into two different people. One is the almost mythic champion of Scottish independence; the other is the historical Bruce, who no less than Oliver Cromwell had his warts, at least figuratively. In the Footsteps of Robert Bruce, by Alan Young, takes an enjoyable look at both of these Bruces, with an emphasis on always making it clear to the reader which is which. In some ways, the book is an insightful and almost wry case study in the art of myth-making. Never presuming to denigrate Bruce’s remarkable accomplishments, Young nevertheless sets the records staight on “victories” that were actually less than inspiring, plots that were less than noble, and roots that were less distinguished than have often been portrayed by other writers. At the same time he points out, rightly, that these stark realities often make Bruce’s rise to power seem all the more noteworthy. In all, this is a very interesting and fair assessment of a national icon–never an easy task.
The other emphasis of this book is a strong sense of place. Aided by Michael Stead’s beautiful photography, Young reconstruct’s Bruce’s life and exploits throughout Scotland, and thereby introduces the country to readers as if through the eyes of Bruce himself. There’s no doubt, these pages say to readers, that Bruce’s Scotland was a special land, well worth fighting for.