Friday, 3 July 2009

A Very British Caper

Finished The 39 Steps by John Buchan yesterday.

A fast-paced thriller...and a lot of fun to read. Not very heavy intellectually, but a good story. The reader, like the protagonist Richard Hannay, is immediately thrown into the action.

Hannay, bored with his London life (Dr. Johnson would have loved him), is unexpectedly caught up in an "intrigue", as they used to say - murder, espionage, false accusations, international conflict. He survives by his wit and moral courage - he feels he must do right by the stranger who confides in him.

Setting this novel on the eve of World War I gives the story its feeling of ominous tidings...the reader knows what Hannay is up against...and the inevitability of world conflict. Hannay cannot prevent certain events, but he can definitely clear his own name and do justice to the strange American who inexplicably puts all of his trust into Hannay.

Like I said, this novel is rather light due to its pace, but the subject matter is serious, and Hannay's earnestness and sense of what is right and what is wrong gives it a much-needed dose of gravitas.

Highly enjoyable - and very, very British. What fun, sport.

Next up: Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

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