All Reviews

Pretty Young Rebel - UK Reviews

  • Scottish Field

    “Award-winning biographer Flora Fraser’s beautifully crafted account of her namesake’s life was Book of the Year for The Scotsman and The Spectator, plaudits that are richly merited. McDonald earned her place in posterity as a gallus 24-year-old, but there was so much more to her life, and over 220 pages Fraser deftly peels back the romanticised legend to reveal a very human yet flawed woman.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Scottish Field, 1 April 2023

  • The National

    “Flora Fraser, named after the heroine of the ’45, corrals a driving, fast-flowing story with great skill. Macdonald’s life offers much to think on, in particular, as Fraser notes in her prologue, Scottish and American nationalism and “the nature of loyalism as a function of emigration”…

    …Fraser’s account is brilliantly cinematic in its vivacity.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – John Quin, The National, 26 February 2023

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  • The Scotsman

    “If Mary [Queen of Scots’] life has been pored over time and again, most know little of Flora MacDonald’s beyond the few days she spent helping Bonnie Prince Charlie evade the Redcoats. Flora Fraser’s admirable biography shows there was much more of interest to her life.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Allan Massie, The Scotsman,  January 2023

  • Oban Times

    “In Pretty Young Rebel, award-winning biographer Flora Fraser retells the remarkable true story of Flora Macdonald, a woman who showed extraordinary courage in the face of great danger, in a tale of adventure and daring, wit and charm, struggle and survival.

    This lively study of Scotland’s Jacobite heroine will captivate readers as they delve into the life of one of the romantic characters in Scottish history.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Oban Times, January 2023

  • The West Highland Free Press

    “The story is so good that, even when we know the plot, even upon the umpteenth re-telling, it grips and astounds like a great novel. If you live in the north-west Highlands and Islands, it offers the bonus of being a blockbuster thriller set in your immediate neighbourhood…

    Flora Fraser is also an experienced biographer. Her namesake could not have fallen into better hands. Fascinated by her characters and fully aware of their fearsome predicaments, Fraser has a delightfully easy touch.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Roger Hutchinson, The West Highland Free Press, 20 January 2023

  • Literary Review

    “There are many people remembered, indeed famous, because of a single episode in their lives. One such was Flora Macdonald. In truth, her entire life story is interesting, as Flora Fraser shows in this thoroughly researched biography…

    Fraser tells the story of Flora Macdonald’s life very well, with sympathy, respect and understanding.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Allan Massie, Literary Review, 1 November 2022

  • London Review of Books

    “After plenty of enterprising research in Britain and in North Carolina, Fraser makes a fresh and exciting narrative out of this old story…”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – London Review of Books, 15 December 2022

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  • Scottish Review

    “This appealing book covers the entire span of Flora’s eventful 68 years and the fates of her family and kin, as well as the influences of a diaspora of Highlanders on their fortunes. The heroine who kept the Young Chevalier (and the ambitions of the House of Stuart) alive, and who gave Stuart names to her children, chose to side with the Hanoverians in the American Revolutionary War.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – David Macfadyen, Scottish Review, 28 September 2022

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  • The Press and Journal

    “‘I cannot remember a time when I did not know the story of Flora Macdonald,’ writes Flora Fraser, author of Pretty Young Rebel, a new book on her namesake. What she never expected was to write a book about her, and even less so, to discover the full extent of Flora’s undoubted charm and canny ways…

    …In the meticulous and deep-delving research for the hugely readable Pretty Yong Rebel (Bloomsbury Publishing 2022), Flora says she has built a picture of Flora Macdonald as sure of herself, uncowed by Royalty, and egalitarian, a gracious, charming yet artful and grounded product of her island roots.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Susy Macaulay, The Press and Journal, 27 September 2022

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  • Roy Foster, The Oldie

    “Flora Fraser, no spoilsport, is from a Highland clan who fought for Charles Edward Stewart; for his pains, her ancestor Lord Lovat became the last peer to be beheaded on Tower Hill. 

    And, as the accomplished biographer of Emma Hamilton, Queen Caroline, Pauline Bonaparte and Mr and Mrs George Washington, she has a beady eye for the paradoxes of history, the rationalisations of survivors, and the way myths and reputations are made. And that is what makes this book such a riveting read.

    Her namesake, also from a Highland clan, though a less elevated one, became famous overnight in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion. That’s when she took charge of the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie and enabled him, disguised as her Irish maid ‘Betty Burke’, to evade Cumberland’s soldiery, escaping ‘over the sea to Skye’ and eventually to France. 

    This narrative takes up the first half of the book – and is suitably thrilling, while based on intensive archival research as well as local knowledge and tradition. (The author spent much of her youth in a Western Isles house embellished by doors carved by the Sobieski Stuarts, two enterprising 19th-century claimants to the throne.)

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Roy Foster, The Oldie, October 2022

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  • The Scotsman

    “This is a full and always interesting book, a rich picture of Highland society at a time of change as well as a persuasive and always pleasing account of Flora’s life, a social a study as well as a fine telling of a well-known tale, and of the less familiar story of the Scots who chose loyalty to the Crown in America. One wonders if the memory of the Jacobites’ defeat led them to think the American rebels would suffer the same fate.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Allan Massie, The Scotsman, 8 September 2022

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  • The Daily Mail

    “Flora Fraser’s new biography stylishly updates MacDonald’s story for a 21st Century that has slightly forgotten it.

    And she also covers MacDonald’s later life: her marriage, emigration to South Carolina and involvement in the American Revolution.

    But it is telling that, while Fraser makes a passionate and personal (she was named after the ‘pretty young rebel’) case for understanding the whole of her subject’s life, over half of her book is taken up with MacDonald’s role in Prince Charlie’s escape.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Nicholas Harris, The Daily Mail, 4 September 2022

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  • The Times

    “To any of us brought up on The Skye Boat Song — “Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing” — Flora Macdonald will always be a legend. Her bravery in ferrying the handsome Bonnie Prince Charlie, the “Young Pretender” to the throne, from the Hebridean island of Benbecula “over the sea to Skye” in 1746, is one of the great historical tales of our childhoods, burnished in HE Marshall’s retelling in Our Island Story. “She served him when he was most miserable and in greatest danger.” She risked capture by the British forces loyal to the Hanoverian king and the death penalty in service of the Jacobite cause.

    Macdonald was a legend in her own lifetime. On their tour to the Hebrides 27 years later in 1773, Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited the illustrious heroine in Skye to pay homage to her.

    That Macdonald then sailed over the sea to North Carolina is less well-known. It was while flicking through a sheaf of portraits of famous figures involved in the American War of Independence that the historian Flora Fraser chanced upon an image of Macdonald. “What,” Fraser wondered, “had she, a Jacobite heroine of 1746, to do with these patriots across the Atlantic in the 1770s?” In this enthralling book, which throws us straight into the fresh air, heather, rain and midges of the Hebrides, followed by the swamps and creeks of North America, Fraser fleshes out what for most of us is a sketchy and romanticised area of our general knowledge.”

    Review of Pretty Young Rebel – Ysenda Maxtone Graham, The Times, 2 September 2022

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