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Wild Harbour by Ian Macpherson

Wild Harbour (1936)

by Ian Macpherson

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Written in 1936, this novel precedes the Second World War, but also predicts it. While the details of the war and it's cause are vague, and the events unlike the the real war. It is a clear portrait of the fear and anguish that often accompany war. Presented as diary of Hugh and his wife Terry who escape to the hills of Scotland after he is drafted, this book describes what befalls them for the two seasons they spent hiding in a cave, and what transpires when they find their retreat from the world invaded.

This book is long on description. In some books I like this, while in others I find it bores me. Unfortunately in the case of this book, I found it to be the latter. I often found, myself skimming the story. Sadly, I also found the characterization lacking. I just didn't really care all that much for what happened to either Hugh or Terry. Finally, the introduction gave away every major detail of the book. I don't object to knowing how a book will end. It is the whys and hows that I read for. The introduction stole even that from me. These factors combined made this a book I didn't find myself much compelled to read. What kept me going was simply the interest in how close to truth the author was able to get in prediction of a world plunged into war shortly after publication. I was also curious as to how much of this is tied to the author's beliefs on the nature of war. I do, however, think that this is a book that will work for many people, particularly fans of dystopian fiction, as long as they avoid the introduction. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
In this book, written in 1936, WW2 starts in 1944. Weeks before it starts, Hugh and Terry sit with their friend Duncan and consider alternatives to fighting in another useless, senseless, cruel war. The couple decides to retreat to the barren wilderness of their native Scotland. Duncan is convinced man cannot survive in the wilds anymore. Terry and Hugh make plans to go to a cave they found far into the hills. The format is the intermittent dairy of Hugh during their stay in the cave. He looks back at how they gathered necessities, transferred it all to the cave and started to make a precarious living. He tells of successes and failure; of the happy days and the days of despair.

I liked many things in the book. I liked the vivid descriptions of the land and of the struggles to live out there, day to day, just the two of them. I liked how their live apart from their fellow human beings affected them. I liked the writing. But I missed a bit more depth to the moral considerations that brought them there and the implications of keeping apart. ( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
Three stars and yet, I'm glad I read it. Not the best reading I've experienced, but very interesting information. Hugh and Terry are married and live in pre WWII Scotland. As they see others joining up they have to decide: will they support the war, will they kill, can they support the war without killing? The questions they must face are alone worth the read. Can they survive being ostracized for their beliefs? Can they survive killing others? Can they survive, period? So the basic question seems to be what will be more difficult, killing or not killing? How will they fair if they live against their own beliefs? Heck what ARE their beliefs? They are going to learn a LOT about themselves because of course, it is a lot more complicated than that.This fictitious account describes their life literally in the wilds, scrounging for food and shelter and making a life for themselves. Will they stick with their initial decision? This is a multi-faceted story. ( )
  mkboylan | Mar 12, 2014 |
This short novel was written in 1936 but set in 1944. Hugh and his wife Terry want nothing to do with the coming war and the violence that it promises, so they escape to hide in the mountains of central Scotland. The first part of the book describes mostly their efforts to survive in the wilderness. Slowly though, there are signs that the war has gone as badly as they expected and they have to face what they have avoided.

This is one of the more obscure novels from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, which is too bad, as I think it would appeal to a wider audience. There is something haunting about this story, and I know that it will stick with me. Probably its weakest part for me is some of the dialogue, as the two main characters spoke as if they were in panic mode through most of the book (but didn't act panicky).

Recommended for: Fans of the Canadian TV show "Survivor Man." People who like literary adventure stories.

Note: There is a typo in 1001 Books Before You Die, as it says the book is set in 1914 instead of 1944. That would change the whole meaning of the book. Also note that the Canongate Edition, the Introduction by John Burns contains major spoilers. ( )
3 vote Nickelini | Feb 22, 2014 |
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