In ‘Beneath the Shining Mountains, Linda Acaster brings to life a tribal myth of the Native Americans in a way that thoroughly engages the reader. Always meticulous and comprehensive in her research, Linda has managed to catch the attitudes, beliefs and customs of these proud and ancient peoples, employing a love story to bring alive a tradition now sadly lost. Her heroine is drawn with such empathy that the reader feels every doubt, every triumph, every sorrow and every passion as she strives to understand her world and her place within it.
That this is a book Linda wrote early in her career is evident from minor faults that she would avoid now. But these are both few and almost inconsequential when compared with the quality of most of the writing.
All the stereotypes we learnt as children, crowding round the TV or visiting the cinema to watch the westerns we embraced, are utterly destroyed as she clothes her characters with the flesh of real human beings. With a subtlety that permits her people to worm their way into our affections, she undermines our prejudices and reveals those we were told were savages as civilised, complex and spiritually profound individuals.
Reading this novel, I was transported to a different world, where priorities changed according the seasons and the needs of the tribe. I felt the anxieties of the hero, his great desire to be the man his peers and followers wished him to become, his confusion as he experienced love for the first time and slowly recognised that this was what it was.
The antagonists are drawn with equal understanding; the pressure to succeed and become respected figures, within a society that demands a great deal from its heroes, is tangible. Failure is so absolute in its consequences that those who desert honour for personal gain are rewarded with a fate worse than death.
This tale of love amongst a tribe that once freely roamed the plains and mountain passes of the great American west is vibrant, funny, poignant, occasionally erotic, moving, illuminating and romantic.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to all who love a good story, regardless of gender. A damn good read.