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on 7 August 2017
I last read 'Grenmantle' when in my teens - many many years ago. It is still as gripping as ever and a view of Europe and the political problems in the early twentieth century. Written in a style that reflects the time.
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Greenmantle, written and first published during the First World War, takes us on a contemporary journey to Lisbon and then through Holland and Germany to the Danube and east to Constantinople and beyond as far as the Euphrates. Trench warfare in Belgium and France was ongoing, the Gallipoli disaster very recent, and the Russians (still under the Tsar) were putting German directed Ottoman forces under much pressure south of the Caucuses. Given that the action was ongoing, it is surprising how frank this novel is about the stalemate on the western front, the magnitude of the casualties, and that it had been necessary to withdraw from the Gallipoli peninsula. That the novel is nevertheless gung ho in its attitude towards war - all an extension of fox hunting, really - and indulges in unflattering caricatures of Germans and Turks need not in the circumstances surprise us at all. The greater surprise is that there are also examples of both that are much more sympathetically drawn.

John Buchan gives his hero Richard Hannay (The Thirty-Nine Steps) a new assignment. Called to Whitehall when nearing the end of recuperation following a wound received at Loos, he is instructed by Foreign Office mandarin Sir Walter Bullivant to pick-up the threads of an intelligence investigation in Istanbul. Those threads are fragmentary in the extreme, but are believed to be key to Germany's plans to achieve dominance in the Middle East and beyond. That indeed proves the case and, having solved the initial puzzle, Hannay goes on to do his best to frustrate the German war effort in Turkey, at great risk to himself and the several collaborators he has acquired.

Greenmantle is a fine example of an adventure that moves at considerable speed through varying terrain. It gives readers a vicarious experience of the various places visited, of troop trains, of how the Danube river barges worked, and some insight into the construction of trenches, barbed wire entanglements and how field guns are used. As a spy drama set in hostile territory, there are obvious comparisons to be made with the much later James Bond novels and a particular delight in Greenmantle is Buchan's prototype for Rosa Klebb, Hilda von Einem, drawn by Buchan with considerable care.
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on 28 September 2009
This is a non-stop roller coaster ride across war torn WWI Europe. Okay as other reviewers have said, it's flawed with propoganda and incredible coincidences but Buchan is on top form here and it's only in looking back that one sees them. The nearest I can say for modern comparison would be Alistair MacLean but for pure excitement and even readability - Greenmantle is ahead. Its unbelievable that this book was written nearly 100 years ago. I totally recommend it but firstly would encourge readers to read The 39 Steps (the first in the series).
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on 31 March 2011
A great read. Nearly a hundred years have gone by since this book was written and the words still leap off the page and the story keeps you glued to the page! Buchan was a remarkable man, of his time, and this Hannay story which follows on from the "39 Steps" takes us behind enemy lines for a life and death adventure. The tone of the book is openly "jingoistic" but, as "Greenmantle" was written during the war, this is hardly surprising and there is a greater understanding of and empathy with the "foe" than might, at first, be suspected. In any case I couldn't put it down and I like the Collector's Library format too! Fits in your pocket and looks good.
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on 21 November 2008
Read "the 39 steps", and then read this. A fantastic development of Richard Hannay, and a brilliant way of passing a wet afternoon. Again, this book will probably find it's way onto the book shelves of all my male teen aged relatives. In my opinion, this is the best book Buchan wrote. Having said all of that, you should be aware it has some references to fairly dated views of race thrown in. If you're able to set these aside as being of the time, then it's hugely enjoyable.
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on 7 September 2000
For students of the Great War the Middle Eastern campaigns represent an eclectic mixture of excitement and romantic notions of great religious passion, and in Greenmantle Buchan takes us on a riveting romp through German-occupied Europe in a race against time to prevent a German sponsored Jihad rousing Muslim opinion against the Entente. Written in 1915 to reflect very real contemporary fears of a Jihad and the security of the British Empire, which was governed largely on prestige factors, Buchan has woven a fantastic tale which transports the Great War student back in time and makes him feel as if he riding with the cavalry into Erzerum at the end of the book. Wonderfully realistic, with the breadth of knowledge displayed by Buchan betraying his later role as Director of Propaganda in 1917.
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on 15 February 2013
The author John Buchan was Britain's leading writer of thrillers in the first half of the twentieth century, and also Governor General of Canada

As with other adventure stories of his, it is best just to judge the story of 'Greenmantle' as entertainment and not worry too deeply how likely it is that it could all actually have happened.

While not every reviewer here agrees with me, overall I did not find this as good as the 2 other books I have so far read by the same author, The 39 Steps and Prester John, so if you have not yet read them I would try those first.

This 1916 novel, a sequel to the author's more famous 39 Steps, begins in London, follows its hero Hannay on the run from the enemy across Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Balkans, and concludes in Turkey, as a small band of British and allied spies, professional and amateur, track down the enemy plot concealed in a short series of apparently unconnected code words and numbers, one of which is "Greenmantle", written by a dying British agent.

The middle section of the book, the most reminiscent of the 39 Steps, is the best, as Hannay flees alone from pursuing German agents and encounters a variety of people and adventures good and bad.

The other parts, especially the Turkish section, have interest, but I found harder to believe in and on the whole enjoyed less. The climax takes place on the Russo-Turkish front in the First World War, which I am sure should be better known than it is to the English speaking world, but which is too obscure to have much immediate resonance to most of us now.
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on 28 September 2009
Having read a number of John Buchan's 'Shockers' I knew what I was letting myself in for when I turned the first page - and JB didn't disappoint.

Set shortly after the Battle of Loos in the First World War the fast paced narrative follows our hero (Richard Hannay) and accomplices accross Europe to the Middle East as they seek to thwart a German backed plot to raise Jihad and thereby prevent ultimate Teutonic victory.

Yes, some of the scenarios are a little contrived and unlikely coincidences abound but that doesn't detract from what is still a rollicking good adventure thriller, even nearly a century after it was first published.

A great way to pass an afternoon (and the Penguin Read Red edition is as usual excellent).
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on 28 August 2012
If you like heroes who think nothing of fighting foreign powers, whilst knowing no fear, escaping death, seeking justice and thwarting fiendish plots all for Queen/King and country and that's just before breakfast.......then Greenmantle is for you. Crikey!! I nearly choked on my kedgeree...

The Kaiser did in reality try and inspire Muslims to rise up against the British Empire, in the hope of thwarting our oil supplies and to get his hands on British India. The plot for Greenmantle is thus not entirely frivolous! This book harks back to the Great Game in Central Asia and is so redolent of its time, with the Imperial attitudes and notions of English daring against diabolical foreign foes e.g Riddle of the Sands.

In places the book has remarkable coincidences e.g. Arbuthnot turns up in disguise in Constantinople just in the nick of time, or far fetched scenes that defy credibility, such as when runnng through enemy lines to get word to the Russians. The Great Game theme is also found in the first Flashman book and more topically today in Distant Annihilation. Unusually, for this genre the main villain is a female. However, Hannay is utterly chaste, whereas today a female would provide the sex interest in such a book.

But despite these criticisms the book is an excellent edge of seat, boy's own page turner of an adventure, which no doubt is why it's still in print 100 years later. Be under no illusions, Greenmantle is the best of the Hannay adventures and eclipses the better known Thirty Nine Steps.
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on 28 February 2009
If you like "The 39 Steps" you will love this too. Although the plot in the former is perhaps more believable, the twists and turns and sheer pace of this, the second of the Hannay novels, allow you to sucessfully suspend belief. Exciting stuff!
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