“A gripping tale set in the Scottish Borderlands which gives an interesting explanation of historical events at Soutra just south of Edinburgh on the Fala Moors. All that remains of the original monastic buildings today is a small building called Soutra Aisle.”
“Margaret Cook expertly captured the essence of 15th century monastic and secular life. Border Brothers drew me in from page 1, transported me to a bygone age and kept me spellbound. I admit to staying up in the wee sma’ hours to finish reading. This book is well researched and skillfully written. A real find.”
“Border Brothers is the convincing but, by the author’s own admission, fictional account of the downfall of the Augustinian Abbey of Soltre in the Scottish Borders. While the archaeological record reveals much about the herbal remedies in use at this mid fifteen century centre of medical excellence, little is known about the circumstances surrounding the destruction of this rich, land-owning abbey.
The book opens with a chilling account of the burning at the stake of a “witch”. The narrative then shifts to a point in time some thirty years earlier to the beginning of the story, which leads up to the grisly scene described in the opening chapter.
The book is a real page turner, setting the story of the principal character, Fergus the “medicus” at the abbey, in the context of the more colourful features of late mediaeval society. There is the avarice of kings and the venality of clerics, heresy and superstition and the collaboration of church and state to the enrichment of both. There is also romantic love, illicit sex and rape. Equally absorbing are the accounts of the ground-breaking midwifery practices being developed at Soltre and of the healing techniques used in conjunction with the herbal remedies deployed in the treatment of ailments, such as henbane, opium poppy, mandrake, hemlock and foxglove.
One could have wished for more in this vein, but on the other hand the author lifts the medical aspects of the narrative to a higher plane altogether by setting two opposing philosophies of medicine against each other. The belief in conservative religious communities of the day was that sickness is caused by sin. At Soltre, Fergus the medicus openly espouses the Islamic belief that each disease is sent into this world with its cure (but the means of treatment may not be known to everyone). Surely this was the cause of the downfall of Soltre rather than Fergus’ passionate love affair with a young woman. The reader is left to decide.”