The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced today. It’s number …

1

which for me is Greenmantle by John Buchan. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by January 31, 2019.

Greenmantle

Greenmantle is the second of five novels by John Buchan featuring the character of Richard Hannay, first published in 1916. I’ve read the first, The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Richard Hannay is tasked to investigate rumours of an uprising in the Muslim world and takes off on a hair-raising journey through German-occupied Europe to meet up with his old friend Sandy Arbuthnot in Constantinople, where they must thwart the Germans’ plans to use religion to help them win the war. Set during World War I, Greenmantle is a contraversial meditation on the power of political Islam (it was pulled from Radio 4’s schedule at the time of the 7 July bombings).

I’m really pleased this book came up in the Spin for me as it will fit in with my reading about World War I.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

A – Z of TBRs: P, Q and R

I’m now up to P, Q and R in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. This time I’ve included one e-book.

– is for The Power House by John Buchana book I’ve had since 2014. I bought this book because I’d read and enjoyed John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

The Power House

It’s a short book of just 108 pages and my copy has an introduction by Stella Rimington. She writes:

The Power House is one of the least known of Buchan’s mature works, a tale without a plot, and so full of holes that it calls to mind Samuel Johnson’s definition of a ‘network’ – ‘anything reticulated and desuccated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections’. It is pure essence of Buchan – a demonstration of his magical power to weave a tale out of no materials but the threads and colours of his imagination.

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen, MP, is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their code name is ‘The Power-House’.

I cast my mind back to gather recollections of Pitt-Heron, but all I could find was an impression of a brilliant, uncomfortable being, who had been too fond of the byways of life for my sober tastes. There was nothing crooked in him in the wrong sense, but there might be a good deal that was perverse. I remember consoling myself with the thought that, though he might shatter his wife’s nerves by his vagaries, he would scarcely break her heart.

To be watchful, I decided, was my business. And I could not get rid of the feeling that I might soon have cause for my vigilance. (page 9)

Q – is for The Queen’s Man by Sharon Penman (on my Kindle for two years). I bought this after reading her Sunne in Splendour, which I absolutely loved.

The Queen's Man

It’s set in AD 1183, when Richard the Lionheart is missing, thought to be dead and his brother Prince John is scheming to take the Crown. Justin de Quincy has just discovered his father is the Bishop of Chester. A dying man, a goldsmith, gives him a letter to deliver to Queen Eleanor, (Richard’s and John’s mother) which brings him into great danger as it reveals whether Richard is alive or dead.

Captured by Henry’s soldiers, she [Eleanor] was held prisoner for sixteen years, freed only by Henry’s death. Such a lengthy confinement would have broken most people. It had not broken Eleanor. The passionate young queen and the embittered, betrayed wife were ghosts long since laid to rest. Now in her seventy-first year, she was acclaimed and admired for her sagacity and shrewd counsel, reigning over England in her son’s absence, fiercely protective of his interests, proud matriarch of a great dynasty. A living legend. And this was the woman expecting a letter from a murdered goldsmith? Justin thought it highly unlikely. (location 323)

R– is for Resistance by Owen Sheers a book I’ve had for nearly ten years. One of the reasons I haven’t read this before now is that I couldn’t find it for a while until I discovered it out of order behind other books that I’d double-shelved. I can’t remember now what had prompted me to buy this book. Owen Sheers is an author, poet and playwright.

Resistance

Resistance gives an alternative outcome to World War Two, one in which the D-Day landings had failed in 1944 and the Nazis had invaded the UK. Sarah Lewis wakes to discover her husband and all the men in the Welsh border valley of Olchon have gone. It’s the story of a community under siege.

The meeting with Atkins had happened too quickly for George to think on the consequences yet. His head was light, open, and he swung his scythe with a renewed energy. He felt exposed, as if a layer of skin had been shaved from him, bringing him into closer contact with the world. The blade’s edge against the young stalks of bracken, the calligraphy of the swallows above him. Everything seemed clearer, brought into sharper focus. Just an hour ago the war was a different country, the contours of which he’d traced through the newspapers, in radio reports. But now he was involved, connected. He had the strange sensation of his life simultaneously diminishing and expanding under the impression of Atkins’s words and for the second time that week he felt older than his seventeen years. (page 25)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Way back in 2008 I watched The 39 Steps on TV with Rupert Penry-Jones as Richard Hannay, so inevitably as I read The Thirty-Nine Steps I could see Penry-Jones as Hannay. The dramatisation, however, although there are similarities, is different from John Buchan’s book. There are a number of historical inaccuracies and some artistic licence was used – none of which I was aware of as I watched the film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me want to read the book and it’s taken me until now to get round to it – I’d forgotten most of the details of the film, except for visions of Penry-Jones running away from his pursuers in the Scottish moors, scrambling through the heather.

John Buchan 1936

John Buchan began writing The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1914; it was first published in 1916. He was born in Perth in 1875 and after leaving Oxford University he had a varied career, as well as writing books and articles he was a barrister, a member of Parliament, a soldier and a publisher. He was created Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsefield in 1935 and became the 15th Governor-General of Canada, a position he held until his death in 1940.

Once I began reading The Thirty-Nine Steps I didn’t want to put it down. It’s a fast moving action-story, beginning with an international conspiracy, involving anarchists, financiers and German spies. Richard Hannay, having found Scudder, murdered in his London flat, fears for his life and goes on the run, chased by villains in a series of exciting episodes, culminating in the discovery of the location of the ‘thirty-nine steps’. Hannay is a remarkable character, resourceful, and a master of disguise. As well as fleeing for his life he is searching for Scudder’s notebook, which contains clues to the international conspiracy – Scudder was a spy.

The master villain is also a master of disguise, having the ability to ‘hood his eyes like a hawk‘ :

There was something weird and devilish in those eyes, cold, malignant, unearthly, and most hellishly clever. They fascinated me like the bright eyes of a snake. (page 119)

He can impersonate the British First Sea Lord at a top secret meeting with people who knew the real First Sea Lord very well and is also convincing as the very British gentleman, the plump, bridge-player Percival Appleton.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is to my mind a gem. There are other Hannay books – the Complete series is available on Kindle, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep.

And so one book leads on to yet more books!