Brigadier General Richard Hannay has been withdrawn from his beloved front lines and dispatched by Bullivant to the Cotswolds. There he will infiltrate the pacifist village of Biggleswick which is suspected of hosting spies.
After meeting with Mary Lamington, pretty, smart, and head of operations, and his old friend John S, Blenkiron, Hannay heads north, trying to uncover the identity of his nemesis–and rehearse his marriage proposal. But his wait for developments on the Germans’ coming onslaught is far from boring. He is kept busy breaking into deserted chateaus, escaping traps, decoding messages in advertisements, and climbing mountains with a contentious objector in the fight with an opponent who has been resurrected from the past and has–almost–infinite disguises.
In some of the reviews I read I came across a good many complaints about how much culture the story contained which they misunderstood; mentions of various battles and war honors, clothing, the bombings in London, and references to Pilgrim’s Progress, just to name a few. I felt the same way, but it was a good education, so I sought to learn about those things.
I have tried hard and long to acquaint myself with the day, which is fairly current to the middle the The Good Adventurers, and Mr. Standfast was a gold mine of information. There is one portion in my novel which takes place simultaneously with the climax of Mr. Standfast, and I learned so much more from it than any research online. Half of what makes it so great is Buchan’s vast knowledge of the war. (He wrote entire books on the Battle of the Somme.) His dump of honors and awards which Hannay has received in the first page of the narrative made me green with envy. (Do you know the hours I spent in an agony of research trying to learnt these things. SERIOUSLY.) I would note that having Pilgrim’s Progress under your belt might give you a bit of an advantage.
Mary was sweet and perfect, but dare I say, a little young? Stranger things have happened, I suppose, and in a way one cannot help liking their little romance a teeny-tiny bit. 🙂 I disagree with anyone who thinks that his earlier adventures needed love interests. A guy only needs one love interest, and the lack of an earlier one made Mary that much better and diminished distractions in the other stories.
Buchan puzzles me, too, with his capricious plotting. Mr. Standfast is vaguely like The 39 Steps with his trip up to Scotland and his trials in getting back to London incognito. He is positively everywhere, and not just in this story. But all the adventure sequences have a touch of realism (not everything in real life follows the rules, after all) and they make for such a ripping story that I never think twice about it as a problem for long afterward. (This book is no exception from the earlier ones. Note that there is some language.)
The night up on the cliffs was chilling, his meeting and ride with Archie exhilarating and hilarious, (‘It’s the General disguised as Charlie Chaplin!’ LOL! Better showing there than pages of description could have done.) and the chateau was excellently creepy.
THE END WAS SO SAD. *wails in agony*
But Mr. Standfast was my favorite of the Richard Hannay stories. I haven’t yet got my hands on a copy of The Island of Sheep, but I highly doubt it could trump this one. I just loved it.