An Ode to Southern Scotland – Buchan’s 39 Steps: A Review

Thrilling, fast-paced, rich in detail but not much of a storyline!

In spite of the rather limited plot of this novel, it is still worth reading and very entertaining. Considering that Buchan himself describes the book in his dedication as a “shocker”, a dime novel, the reader should not have high expectations with regards to the storyline anyways. Most striking about this “conspiracy” spy novel – which gives alternative genesis to the Great War – is how deeply in love Buchan was with the south of Scotland, especially the Scottish Borders. A fact that I can easily understand. The best parts of the novel are the ones that describe the protagonist’s, Richard Hanney’s, flight from London, via Dumfries and Galloway to the boundaries of the Scottish Borders. These passages, although not utterly storyless but definitely ‘storylow’, are full of imagery and detailed description of the landscape and the flora and fauna to be found in southern Scotland.

If you are in need of an entertaining, short read for the summer holidays, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Buchan’s work which has never been out of print in the 102 years since its first publication. It is perfectly capable of taking you on a gripping, imaginary trip to the Tweed and Beyond.

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