Based on a true case, a young man pays the ultimate price for saying what he thinks in this masterful historical novel by a writer at the height of her powers.
Edinburgh in the late 17th century is centre of religious authoritarianism, intolerance and fear. The flames of the city’s famous Enlightenment are yet to burn.
Based on the true story of Thomas Aikenhead, this is the fictional account of a 20 year-old student who was the last person in Britain to be tried and executed for blasphemy.
Dilys Rose is one of Scotland’s very best literary writers. This is a brilliant historical novel, from an acclaimed and award-winning writer at the height of her powers, with great resonance for today.
‘A gripping fictional account of the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy, written by one of Scotland’s greatest authors… Whispers of superstition, lore, misunderstood science and human nature are entwined together, smoothly building tension throughout the book. Rose seamlessly recreates Aikenhead’s character through colloquial dialogue and produces a heightened sense of time and place through her well researched attention to even the smallest of details.’ Scottish Field
‘A richly compelling novel of the case… Rose has given us a sympathetic Aikenhead. She has set him in a well-imagined Edinburgh, a city of stinking closes, taverns full of talk, brawls and beggars… a horrible story made tolerable by the intelligence and sympathy with which it is written.’ Scotsman
‘Rose presents a version of the late 1600s that feels convincing and real….
Edinburgh is in many ways the main character of the novel, a rough and ready city of staggering poverty and high learning… With considerable artistry and skill, Rose avoids presenting the old city in its cliched garb… and instead makes it seem a living and breathing presence… Unspeakable is a valuable novel, well-researched and well-written, and scrupulous in its presentation of the past.’ Scottish Review of Books
‘an excellent demonstration of what a well researched book can be. The explanation and portrayal of Scottish culture, the dynamic and enigmatic personality of Thomas Aikenhead, the general uncertainty of whether or not his death was justified, these are only a handful of reasons to love this book’ LitGoals
Dilys Rose is one of the finest prose writers around. In this vividly atmospheric novel she portrays the complexity of life in seventeenth-century Edinburgh in rich detail, bringing to life the unforgettable character of Thomas Aikenhead with subtley and deep humanity.’ Anne Donovan, author of Gone are the Leaves and Buddha Da
‘The case of Thomas Aikenhead is rightly compelling – and deeply Scottish; Dilys Rose makes it all completely her own in this magic box of a novel.’ Alan Warner, author of Morven Callar, The Stars in the Bright Sky and Dead Man’s Pedal