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on 15 September 2010
I became interested in the life of Gavin Maxwell after a holiday on the West coast of Scotland and a visit to the Ring of Bright Water centre in Kyleakin on Skye. I bought his trilogy of books about living with his otters and after a trip to Glenelg I felt I wanted to know more about the man.
This book gave a good account of his early life and the disasters of boarding schools. Also how his visits to his paternal grandparents in Moncrieff fuelled his early interest in wildlife. It made a good companion to his biography by Douglas Botting and the two books gave an intriguing insight into the enigma that was Gavin Maxwell.
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on 2 September 2013
Written when Maxwell was fifty he looks back at and describes in some detail his childhood from his first memories to aged seventeen.

Essentially this is an account of a difficult childhood which moulded him into being an outsider from an early age, a position in society he retained pretty much throughout his life. His experiences during his formative years help us, and helped him in the act of writing this memoir, to see the causality of his outsiderness. However, reading between the lines, this understanding did not seem to make himself any easier to bear. His serious, intense, brooding character and the fact that he was a person who lived in the depths of the ocean rather than bobbing along on the surface is clearly evident throughout his part-autobiography.

The one thing that sustained him was the place of his birth, the House of Elrig, hence the title of this book. Here he learned to love wildlife and how to kill it, a paradox that never troubled him. He describes in intimate detail the surrounding landscape and some of its wildlife.

I have recently read his first book Harpoon at a Venture. The House of Elrig does not contain the same sublime writing as his first book, but nonetheless it is intelligent, interesting, insightful, thought-provoking and even at points amusing.

Maxwell had two brothers and a sister. It would seem that his two brothers did not share his `affliction' with intense introspection and shyness, but yet were thrown essentially the same dice at birth. This begs the age-old question of whether we are the product of our nurturing or our innate nature that we are born with. Maxwell's experience compared with that of this brothers would tend to point to the latter being the answer. As I say this book makes you think.

Apart from all of this, this book reveals life as an aristocrat in the inter-war years, as the sun was going down on the established way of life for this strata of society. His family; a branch of that of the seventh Duke of Northumberland, was peppered with eccentrics. Maxwell gives us an account of the main personalities and the lives that they led, almost as if he were an impartial observer reporting on his findings. Again this points to him even being an outsider even within his own kith and kin.

I commend this book to you.
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on 20 August 2014
not a very interesting book
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