C.S. Lewis once said of Phantastes by George MacDonald – “it baptized my conscience.” For The Highlander’s Last Song, I’d say it baptized my soul. It’s a unique book and MacDonald is a rare writer. It’s not like The Great Gatsby where you are left wondering how someone just described what he did in a paragraph. It’s more like being hit by a bus with the way MacDonald challenges your thinking. He introduces ideas and different ways of thinking about things that simply knocked me off my feet.
This story takes place in 19th century Scotland when many of the Highlanders are being cleared off of their land to make room for hunting grounds. These Highlanders have been there for centuries. Wealthy men from the south (London or more generally, England) are buying up huge swaths of land
This is a book full of contrasts. Sophisticated Londoners are contrasted with poor, common Highlanders. In a monetary sense of course. They are also contrasted at a soul level and the Highlanders come out on top. People with different religious ideas are contrasted against one another with their lives showing the ramifications.
One section that stood out in particular was one in which the characters are speaking about dependence. “Our dependence is our eternity.” This is contrasted against the independence the world says is necessary. The idea here, found in so many of the other Books of Titans books, is that of daily habits leading in one direction or another. However, the dependence here is more of a mindset and way of life.