Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quick Review

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had never read Buchan, and would never have thought to start with an historical novel, but Witch Wood proved to be an excellent experience. Think Sir Walter Scott with an ever so much lighter touch. Indeed, the setting here, though not the story, is the same as Scott's Montrose. (And, yes, the great general does make a rather splashy cameo in Buchan's book.) But where Scott's older Tory sensibility saw only heroics and tragedy, John Buchan's 20th Century telling sees the religious civil wars in Scotland as an unremitting disaster for all parties, and uses a small mystery from a chronicle of the period, to describe the conflict from many angles. Buchan nonetheless is a latter day Romantic still, and the master evidently of ripping yarns, so there's great good fun, adventure, swordplay, and whatnot as well. The Scots vocabulary can be a bit daunting -- the edition I read from the mid 1970s weirdly translates about every sixteenth word or so -- but this same language can also be delightful; as in "fernietickles" for freckles.

I'd happily read this one again. A good sign, that. Means I'll be looking out more of Mr. Buchan, hereafter.

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