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Music in the Dark

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, 2024

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529345957

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 25th April 2024

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

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‘Wonderful and moving’ Clare Chambers

‘Utterly absorbing’ Sunday Post


Jamesina Ross is long finished with men. But one night a stranger seeking lodgings knocks on the door of her tenement flat. He doesn’t recognise her, but she remembers him at once. Not that she plans to mention it. She has no intention of trusting anyone enough to let herself be vulnerable again.

A lifetime ago, growing up in a Highland glen, Jamesina Ross wrote songs about the land and the kin who had worked it for generations. But her music was no match for the violence her community faced in the Highland Clearances. Jamesina has borne the disfigurements of that day ever since, on her face and inside her head. Her lodger thinks that if she would only dare to open the past, she might have the chance of a future.

This is a story about resilience, memory, resurrection – and those parts of who we are that nobody can take away.
A beautiful exploration of unlooked-for love in later life, its contrariness and its awkward, surprising joys, this is a story about resilience, memory, resurrection – and those parts of who we are that nobody can take away.


Music in the Dark is a beautifully-written piece of work, achieved with immense skill. The portrayal of Jamesina Ross as she is shattered and put back together by the light-touch constancy of Niall Munro is perfectly balanced. The minute focus on these two individuals tells a huge story of the C19th Highlands, Glasgow and North America that readers will find deeply affecting
Shona MacLean
An engrossing, beautifully written novel about the Highland Clearances and the long-term physical, emotional and psychological damage done to those who were forced from their homes and homeland. Like all good historical fiction, it both illuminates the past and speaks eloquently to the present
James Robertson, author of The Testament of Gideon Mack
A wonderful and moving story, beautifully told . . . an episode of history brought vividly to life
Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures
I absolutely loved this book. An important and brutal historical event - but also a tender and unusual love story. It gave me writer envy
Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers
Truer to the reality of clearance and what came after than many ostensibly factual accounts of those events
James Hunter, author of Set Adrift Upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances
Part understated love story and part lament for a people and way of life brushed aside to make way for a more profitable commodity . . . this affecting novel attests to a heartfelt faith in the power of song to heal wounds and keep memories alive
Her best yet . . . Beautifully written and utterly absorbing, it is a fiction fashioned from fact
Sunday Post
There is nothing tentative about Sally Magnusson's new novel; it is a fine piece of craftsmanship . . . This is a delightful and sympathetic novel, beautifully written
Scotsman, Books of the Year
Magnusson tackles the dual timescale with perfect assurance in a beautifully written novel that makes you think and feel at the same time
The i Paper
A deeply moving, astonishing and beautiful book. Several times its unexpected twists took me by surprise and I caught my breath . . . What a remarkable, gifted and courageous person Sally Magnusson is, steeped in the power of words, a story teller, driven by conscience, our best commentator on national events. There is nothing sentimental here. It's a wonderful book about hope and the possibility of healing
Prof Sir Iain Torrance, Church of Scotland Magazine