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The House By The Loch Review

The House By The Loch

Kirsty Wark

Interweaving the past with the present, The House by the Loch is a family drama about 3 generations of the MacMillan family. It is set around Loch Doon in the beautiful Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.

Cover of The House By The Loch by Kirsty Wark

The brief opening introduces Walter as a young boy at his home on the shore of Loch Doon and an event that seems to tie him to the loch forever.

The rest of the story jumps back and forward through time between different stages of his life, from his young adulthood up until to the current day. In the 1950s he falls in love with & marries Jean Thompson, bringing her to his beloved home on Loch Doon. Walter struggles with the feeling that he can’t give Jean the lifestyle she grew up around and is constantly striving to earn more to improve their standard of living, whilst she struggles away from everything and everyone she knew, including having given up her fulfilling job as a librarian. Jean feels increasingly isolated, bringing up their 2 young children, whilst he Walter often away from home working on the new hydro power projects. As the story unfolds, we gradually find out more about the slow unravelling of their family unit. In the present day, Walter’s grown children and grandchildren continue to regularly return to the loch he has always called home.

The writing beautifully evokes the dramatic landscape of the area, making it an integral part of the narrative and setting the often slightly melancholy tone to the novel. As the story shifts between time periods, it slowly unravels the family history. It is an absorbing, slower paced read where you gradually start to understand the changing family dynamics and the reasoning behind some of the characters actions. Ultimately a story of redemption, following a tragic accident one weekend at the loch, it clearly demonstrates the complexity of families and the difficulties of moving forward rather than backwards and dwelling on mistakes in the past.

Having seen Kirsty Wark interviewed and talk very eloquently about this novel, at the Edinburgh book festival in 2019, it is clear how much research went into making the landscape and history as accurate as possible. If you enjoy a family drama with a strong sense of place, then I highly recommend this book.

Also, if you enjoy this book, then I would also recommend Kirsty Wark’s previous novel, The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle. It’s another family story – this time with a dual narrative – and again set in Scotland. You can read a little bit more about this one in this blog post I wrote about some great Scottish fiction.


Cosy Wee Reads is all about celebrating incredible Scottish fiction and the book mentioned in this blog post is the type of fiction you can expect to find in a Cosy Wee Reads surprise book gift. You can find out more about the monthly subscriptions and one-off book gifts here.

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