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Book: Faeries, Farms and Folk - A family saga set in Scotland at a time of witchcraft and superstition by Carmel McMurdo Audsley

Book Reviews: Faeries, Farms and Folk - A family saga set in Scotland at a time of witchcraft and superstition by Carmel McMurdo Audsley

star rating  4.5 stars, 15 reviews
categories: Book, Farms, Agricultural Labourers, Witch Burnings, Scotland, Jacobites, Women, Peat Fires, Turf Roof, Byres, Cottages, Kail, Grieve, Family Saga

Carmel McMurdo Audsley

Author Carmel McMurdo Audsleyabout this book: Faeries, Farms and Folk is set in Scotland from the mid-1600s to mid-1800s at a time when witches were being burned at the stake and the Church had a tight hold on the lives of its parishioners. The theme of superstition is carried on throughout the book. Farmers lived and worked on common lands in Scotland until The Enclosures when they were turned out of their cottages and were left landless and homeless. The following generations (all main characters are based on the author's direct ancestors) had to learn to go with the flow as they were forced to work for farmers who paid a pittance in wages. They adapted as the mechanisation that the industrial revolution brought with it meant there were fewer jobs on the land so they moved into mining.

Unwed mothers were made to sit on a cutty stool in church, in front of the whole congregation, to be humiliated and pay a fine. There was a great belief in witches and people with 'the gift' – the ability to see into the future – and the story illustrates how the power of suggestion can affect our lives.

Readers will get a sense of what it was like to live in that time.

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 The new Catherine Cookson

If you love family sagas, in the vein of Catherine Cookson, you will love this series of books. The writer takes the reader on a journey with ordinary people who are very relatable. You laugh with them, cry with them and wish them well as they face obstacles and hardships that they must endure. Chronologically, the first book in the series is 'Faeries, Farms and Folk', followed by 'Ours, Yours and Mines' and 'Far Across The Sea'. The stories follow the same family across the generations. Absolutely first class writing. [by Sandra Morelands]

 Brings history life in an interesting way

I'm not a history fan because I find facts and figures too dry. But this series of novels really brings history to life in an interesting way. You can get inside the action and live with the families as they have their experiences. I've learned about witch hunting in Scotland, the Jacobite wars, how people were forced off their lands and into coal mines and what it was like to travel across the world in the 1950s. Thoroughly recommend these books. [by Anette Aitken]


My mind enjoyed being back in Scotland, even if these were darker times. How often do we say, "I'd love to be a fly to see what is happening"? Well, I WAS that fly! [by Diane]

 I was there

What a helluva life people had back then in Scotland. Living in cottages with their animals, having to do what the church told them and living in fear of witches. I really got into this book and felt like I was there with the people in the story. [by Suzie Lawson]

 A book that made me feel

I felt cold in the little cottage, sad for the unmarried mothers and sad for the old women who were unable to look after themselves and called witches by the ignorance of other people. I also felt empathy for the men who had worked common lands for generations and then because wealthy landowners decided to fence in their properties, the men were reduced to taking whatever work they could get to feed their families. This story is beautifully told and shines a light on how hard it was for families in the 1600s and 1700s in Scotland. [by Lisa Casey]

 Good subject matter and writing style

I buy a book for two reasons - because I like the subject matter and because I like the writing style of the author. This book ticked both boxes for me. The writing is fresh and the story engaging in 'faeries, Farms and Folk'. You can really engage with the characters and I wanted to know what happened to them. I also found out a lot about the history of people in Scotland in the 1600s and 1700s. I am ready to move on to the author's next book 'Ours, Yours and Mines' which continues the story into the 1800s. [by Deanna Bryson]

 Help with family tree

Thanks for your great website. I found this book by searching for agricultural labourers. Like the author, going back to the 1600s, my family worked the land either for themselves or for the people who owned the estate. I got a lot of useful information from this book about the times and the people and I can apply this to my own family tree. [by Meredith Devine]

 Beautiful books

This is a beautiful series of books. I love a good family saga and you can follow the McMurdo family from their days as farmers in southern Scotland, across the generations, eventually leading to a long trip to Australia. I love they way the superstition of the people is written into the latest book 'Faeries, Farms and Folk'. There is something magical about the way this author weaves together words to make the reader feel as though she is right there in the middle of the action. I had read the first two books 'Ours, Yours and Mines' and 'Far Across the Sea' and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of 'Faeries, Farms and Folk'. They are the sort of books that I will read again and again. I would love to see them made into a television series. [by Liz Farley]

 Great writing

This story is told so simply and makes you feel you are really there. I learned a lot about life in the 1600's and 1700's in Scotland and I had no idea that witches were put on trial by the church. The writer seems to have an empathy for the old women who are accused of being witches and I think I am on their side also. They were poor lonely souls, most of them. I especially grew to like the character of Grainna. A good read. [by Mike Aspinall]

 Quite a wake up call

I complain when the air conditioning doesn't work and when my washing machine breaks down. Then I read this book set in the 1600s and 1700s when people had so little. They had to carry their drinking and washing water from a river, the roof of the house was made from turf so the rain often got in and the floor of the house was dirt. They didn't have a closet of clothes to choose from each day but wore one set of clothes until they rotted. They didn't have the luxury of complaining as if they didn't work they didn't eat. If I need to buy something I just go to the store and get it. It was a hard way of life and it made me grateful for everything I have. This author has a way of making you feel part of the story and I lover her work. [by Maria Gray]

 Witch burnings well written

The only things I knew about witch burning were the Salem witch trials and Joan of Arc being burned at the stake. I hadn't realised that witch hunting was so prevalent in Scotland until I read this book. The way these poor women were treated, all because of ignorance, is shocking. The author's description of the way they were treated in order to get a confession and the actual killing of nine women is done with compassion and empathy. While the witch burnings are only in the first couple of chapters of the book, there are other witches who crop up throughout the book and I actually grew to like some of these women. [by Davida Cunningham]

 Colorful read

I had ancestors in Scotland and some of them worked the land. I always thought they owned their own properties but this book set me straight on that. How could they own property when they were working for feudal lords? The description of when the family went into the town where the coal mines were was really good. The colors of this book were well written - from the green, rolling hills of the farms to the grey and black landscape of the mining communities. I loved the theme of witchcraft throughout the book and the witch burnings in Dumfries reminded me of the Salem witch trials. [by Susan Reid]

 Held my interest

I stayed up all night reading this book as I wanted to see what happened next - that is my definition of a good book! I have not read anything by this author before but I have to say that it was very well researched and written and kept me interested from the first chapter. I can't imagine pigs and cows living in the house with me, but after reading the story for a while it just became normal for the time and the people. The way the witching burnings was written was really well explained and I felt myself on that beach looking at the charred bones. A great read. [by Julie Gladstone]

 A window into a way of the life from the past

The cover of this book is a window and you just want to go behind it and see the people who live there. I especially liked the witch tone that goes through the book and I wept a little when I read what happened to old Grainne - the woman who everyone thought was witch. Maybe she was but she came across as very likeable. I don't have any connection to Scotland but I did enjoy reading about another time. [by Laura Reddy]

 I got really involved in the story

Wow this book has a bit of everything - witches and witch burnings, superstitions, forbidden love and a very real portrayal of how people lived in Scotland in the 1700s and 1800s. I can't imagine anyone today putting up with the intrusion of the church into their lives the way the people in this book did. It made me angry that a young girl fell pregnant to a rich person and he wouldn't marry her because of his position in society. He married someone 'suitable' but never had any children with her so I was cheering for the young illegitimate girl. This is a really good family saga. I am going to buy the two other books by this author as they are all about this family and their lives across 300 years. Great reading. [by Gracie Sampson, USA]

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More Reviews

   • Book Review: Ours, Yours and Mines - A family saga set in the miners' rows of Ayrshire Scotland in the mid-1800s to ...
   • Book Review: Far Across The Sea - A family saga by Carmel McMurdo Audsley

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