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John Buchan’s own favourite among his novels, in which he dealt with the hypocrisy which can lie close to the surface of apparently god-fearing respectability. The story is set in the Scottish Borders during the civil war and the main character is the new young minister in a small village. The minister wrestles with his own christian faith as opposed to the severe presbyterianism of the Kirk and also has to deal with a pagan coven, a wounded soldier from Montrose’s defeated army as well as falling in love. The story itself is breathlessly exciting – a real page-turner – and Buchan’s characters really live, from the young minister David, with his gradual disillusionment with the Kirk he is pledged to serve to the grace and gaiety of Buchan’s most attractive and well drawn heroine, Katrine Yester.
About the Author
John Buchan (1875-1940), had a long and successful literary and public career. He was educated in Glasgow, where his father was a Free Church minister in the Gorbals, but his childhood holidays were spent in the Scottish border country. After graduating at Glasgow University, Buchan took a scholarship to Oxford where he wrote his first two historical novels while still an undergraduate. With interests in law and journalism, he worked for the British High Commission in South Africa at the end of the Boer War. Returning to London in 1903, he eventually became a director of Thomas Nelson the publishers. Buchan worked for the Ministry of Information during WWI, and later wrote a substantial history of the conflict. He became a Tory MP for the Scottish Universities from 1927 to 1935, in which year he was appointed Governor-General of Canada as Lord Tweedsmuir. Buchan took pride in the craft of story-telling and he is probably best known for his Richard Hannay thriller, with six titles ranging from The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1915, to The Island of Sheep in 1936. His other fiction includes John Burnet of Barns (1898), Prester John (1910), Huntingtower (1922), John Macnab (1925), Witchwood (1927) and Sick Hear River, published posthumously in 1941. Buchan's health had never been strong, yet he achieved an enormous literary output in the course of his life, with no fewer than 30 novels and over 60 non-fiction books, including the fine biographies of Walter Scott and James Graham the Marquis of Montrose, whom he greatly admired. His autobiography Memory Hold-the-door, was published in the year of his death form a cerebral stroke.