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Whisky, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson Hardcover – December 21, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Those who have traveled through Scotland know it as the myth-shrouded, precipitation-drenched northern kingdom of the island of Great Britain—a ruggedly beautiful place. The author did just that, clocking 2,789 miles by car and ferry (Scotland has numerous costal islands), but he did so with a particular agenda: to retrace the three-month journey undertaken by 1773 by England’s famous man of letters, Samuel Johnson, and his ever-faithful companion, James Boswell. Starr constantly references the activities and attitudes of the duo as he puts in his own many-miles-per-day travel, but in no way is this narrative technique distracting; rather, it adds a layer of interest for the contemporary reader, allowing us to compare and contrast past and present in this still-remote part of Europe. Equally well integrated are Starr’s digressions into events in Scottish history. As with any good travelogue, engrossing anecdotes abound; and the author’s writing style is direct, comfortable, effortless. (“Edinburgh is memorably striking to the eye,” for instance.) This delightful book ends with a discussion of the issue of Scottish independence. --Brad Hooper

Review

We read travel books in order to quicken the corpse of desire so much so that we imagine tramping over the hills and far away. Bill Starr carries us along as he follows Johnson's and Boswell's path across Scotland with the highly sensible intention of seeing what he can see. What he shows us is wondrously satisfying: castles and history, single malt Scotch, breakfasts, and days sweet and sour with appealing meanderings.
Sam Pickering
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570039488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570039485
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a delightful book. The author is quite funny, and if you have a background in and or care about English literature, the stories about Boswell and Johnson are very interesting. It went on a bit too long and I did tire of it a little bit before it ended. That's why I only gave it four stars, but it is well worth the read.
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Format: Hardcover
William Starr is an admirer of James Boswell and Samuel Johnson; so he basically followed their journey through Scotland. You do not have to be an admirer of Boswell or Johnson , nor for that matter `Braveheart', although it helps. He does capture Scottish weather perfectly," in Scotland pleasant weather can be as rare as single malt served on ice". The history of the areas traveled through is done well, describing both Boswell and Johnson's journey and his, and some of the detours he took and many castles he toured. The stories of Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce and more often, that of William Wallace (Braveheart) are told. The constantly challenging weather is a endless background.
For one who mentions the joys of single malt, there really is not very much of that information in the book, nor really much on kilts or the Loch Ness monster; but the journey is interesting and described well. Lovers of Scotland, Johnson and Boswell, as well as travel odysseys would enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, but it fell short for me. I was hoping for more insight into Boswell and Johnson and less lightweight travelogue. I got tired of reading about "Braveheart," Monty Python, and finding out that "the Loch Lomond gift shop also sold single malts." It seems that the author miscalculated: only someone who's done some reading and research will know or care about Boswell and Johnson ... but the writing is a basic introduction to Scottish history and culture. The author does seem to be an expert on Boswell and Johnson ... it's just a shame that he had to dumb his subject matter down, presumably to make it more accessible. Also, it could use an edit. It's a bit distracting to read "pubic" when it's supposed to read "public." Between the poor editing and and the rehash of basic Scottish history, I had to put this down after a few chapters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having recently visited Scotland made reading this book very interesting, but at the same time I wish I had read it BEFORE the trip as things I saw would have been even more meaningful. The book contains numerous references to historical events, but they are presented in a delightful and easy to read manner. Many things are mentioned that encourage further research or reading. One truly comes away with a vivid feel for the climate of this far north country.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Started reading this book over the Atlantic on the plane to Glasgow. I read it aloud to my three travel companions as we drove around Scotland the next 15 days. It worked to jump around to just focus on where we were headed at the time. It provided us with lots of insights and laughs. He was so right about the American 70's music playing everywhere!
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Format: Hardcover
William Starr is a man who is a bit obsessed with Samuel Johnson and his biographer James Boswell. In the eighteenth century Boswell and Johnson toured Boswell's native Scotland. Starr decides to recreate this voyage in the twenty-first century. Throughout the text he compares his impressions with those of Boswell and Johnson. From Glasgow through the islands and the Highlands, Starr gives us his impressions of the countryside, people, weather, and lore that define each area of Scotland.

Starr is clearly a man who loves Scotland. He is in his element while travelling through the Scottish countryside, though he harbors a certain amount of nostalgia for a Scotland long gone. Ultimately this leads to a bit of golden ageism. Starr is also a man who loves Boswell and Johnson, more so than the average reader likely will. The text is littered with passages quoted from Boswell and Johnson's own writings, more than the average reader will likely appreciate. I wish that Starr had focused more upon his own travelogue and less on Boswell and Johnson. Starr has an entertaining, Bill Bryson-like style that reads easily, but I would rather read Starr on his own than with the crutch of Boswell and Johnson.
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