Reviewed by Annis
Traversing England, Spain and Scotland, Now We Shall be Entirely Free is set during
the Napoleonic era. With an artful nod to the Regency Gothic novel, it opens on
a dark and stormy night as a coach lurches through rural Somerset with its
comatose cargo. Sorely wounded in both body and spirit, English cavalry officer
John Lacroix is deposited unannounced at his lonely country estate.
Although nursed back to physical health by steadfast
Nell, his housekeeper, Lacroix remains thoroughly unhinged. Unable to face a return to the horrors of the
Peninsular War, he makes a run for it, seeking sanctuary and surcease from
inner torment in the magical wilds of the remote Scottish Hebrides.
The heart of the matter is gradually revealed - a wartime
atrocity at a Spanish village, perpetrated by English soldiers during a harrowing
winter retreat to Corunna by British forces at the close of 1808. Although the
question of blame poses a much more complex moral conundrum, the British
government’s simple solution is acceptable to all - a scapegoat offered up to placate its
As Lacroix stumbles in a self-medicated daze along the
pilgrim’s path towards his Isles of the Blessed, he has unwittingly become the
subject of a manhunt. On his trail is Corporal Calley, sociopathic agent of
summary justice, whose frustrated attempts to pin down his prey are both darkly
comic and utterly terrifying.
Suspenseful, beautifully nuanced and vividly realised, with its Robert Louis Stevenson-meets-Henry James sensibility Now We Shall be Entirely Free is a period thriller with perennial relevance. Not as well known as he should be, Miller has a superb sense of story and characterisation and a masterful ability to evoke the tragicomedy that is the human condition. Is the sin of omission worse than the sin of commission? Will Lacroix survive long enough to find redemption through love? Expect no easy answers. (2018, 432pgs). Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.More about Now We Shall Be Entirely Free at The Book Depository