Should Auld Acquaintance: Discovering the Woman Behind Robert Burns
In Should Auld Acquaintance, Jean Armour comes to life and asserts herself as more than a footnote in literary history. Robert Burns’s “Belle of Mauchline” is given a voice in this lyrical and intimate depiction of the wife of the infamous poet and mother of nine.
Without an educated young beauty and talented singer as his partner and muse, Burns may never have achieved his prolific collection of songs and poems. Melanie Murray traces the footsteps of Armour through the village of Mauchline to the Burns’s failed farm in Ellisland and finally to Dumfries, along the way stirring up Murray’s own memories of a defiant, forbidden love. In this complex and intricate history woven from the poems, songs and letters of Robert Burns, Jean Armour emerges as a passionate and resilient woman who must overcome the abandonment of her family, the loss of her children, and the instability of her philandering husband.
Click here to listen to a playlist of songs featured in the book.
In this evocative and beautifully imagined story, Melanie Murray brings a deeply empathic lens to a life lived in the shadows of history. This is a work of wisdom, tenderness and humanity.
Thoughtful, absorbing and full of life, Melanie Murray’s book reanimates the past while illuminating the present. A beautiful read.
Melanie Murray has achieved a startling intimacy in Should Auld Acquaintance. She comes across less as an author and more as an affectionate friend, a patient listener to the ghost of Jean Armour telling her own story. I felt like an eavesdropper, listening in on the deliciously private conversation between two women born centuries apart, but who both knew what it was to yearn for something beyond the conventions their eras demanded of them.