Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, introspective, compelling, 3 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sick Heart River (Paperback)
It seems that I am a bit of a 'late developer' in relation to Buchan's writings, having been content for far too long to remain with the 39 Steps as the benchmark for his oeuvre. This is a gruelling book by comparison, but a remarkable one.

The central character, Sir Edward Leithen, is dying, and ventures off on one last trip to the northern wilds of Canada, in order to save a man personally unknown to him, who is lost in the icy wilderness. So, from the outset, we are not presented with a happy ending, or the prospect of recovery. It is no coincidence that, at the time of writing, Buchan was living in Canada (he had become Governor-General in Ottawa) and presumably knew himself to be dying. Buchan died in 1940, and this book was not published until 1941, so we may reasonably presume that the author used the text to work out his own ideas as he approached the end - the reader will find that there is a great deal of internalisation, of self-critique and questioning on the part of Leithen as he struggles with his failing body. That this is played out against the brutal backdrop of the mountainous wilds in the middle of winter, simply adds a kind of raw power and strength to the narrative - Buchan is returning (if he ever left) to a biblical view of human nature: frail, flawed, at times so self-obsessed that we fail to see the real needs around us, yet at the same time magnificent, battling against a hostile environment.

This is a brilliant book. If Leithen is a device to present us with Buchan's own struggle with ebbing mortality, then he does not fall into the trap of idealising himself, of presenting a one-dimensional model of perfectibility. Leithen is a complex, uncertain, fragile individual who, in the end finds his own place, and comes to terms with God's sovereign rights over his own existence. It is impossible to determine what Buchan's own faith looked like - but we do see here a pronounced comprehension of a Judaeo-Christian worldview where human weakness produces works of great beauty and value - the theme of developing warmth and the bringing of life is played out against the backdrop of bleak, dead cold and nihilism. Leithen progressively and willingly surrenders his very self-controlled, ordered existence to a loving Creator in the midst an environment marked by chaos and death. Indeed, in effect, he gives his life vicariously.

So, 'Sick Heart River' works at several levels. It's a gripping adventure, but it is also much, much more. A fitting end to Buchan's prolific output, and a book I will no doubt come back to again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.3 out of 5 stars (11 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
£7.99
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: Cardiff, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,328