Buchan of the Month/Book Review: The Watcher by the Threshold by John Buchan


Buchan of the Month

The Watcher by the ThresholdAbout the Book

The Watcher by the Threshold is a collection of five stories from John Buchan, author of ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’. The pagan themes and classic adventures are set in the Scottish countryside.

Format: Paperback (224 pp.)    Publisher: Aegypan
Published: 1st December 2006 [1900]        Genre: Short Stories, Ghost Stories

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Watcher by the Threshold on Goodreads

My Review

The Watcher by the Threshold is the seventh book in my Buchan of the Month reading project.  You can find out more about the project plus my reading list for 2018 here.  You can also read a spoiler-free introduction to the book here.  My copy of The Watcher by the Threshold is part of a hardback compendium entitled Four Tales, published by Blackwood in 1944 (first edition February 1936) which also contains The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Power-House and The Moon Endureth (another short story collection).

The collection is made up of five stories, all set in the Scottish Highlands and with an element of the supernatural.

In ‘No Man’s Land’, superstition turns to reality in a frightening encounter with a legacy of the past.
In ‘The Far Islands’, a small boy, the last in a family that goes back generations, is transfixed by visions of an island beyond the horizon always just out of reach.  Only in the final pages of the story does he attain his dream, but at what costs?
In ‘The Watcher of the Threshold’, a man’s friend becomes convinced that a devilish presence is constantly at his side, plunging him into melancholy and driving him to ultimately desperate acts.
In ‘The Outgoing of the Tide’, a battle between good and evil, love and hate, is played out at a place and on a night of the year when evil forces abound.
Finally, in Fountainblue’, a return to the place of his boyhood brings about a moral and emotional crisis as a man realises that success in the modern world is not enough for true fulfilment.

In the stories that make up The Watcher by the Threshold, Buchan explores many of the themes that he would revisit in later books: self-sacrifice, the virtues of the outdoor life and physical activity and, most notably, the thin line between civilisation and chaos.  For example, in an oft-quoted line from ‘Fountainblue’, the narrator Maitland remarks, ‘There is a very narrow line between the warm room and the savage out-of-doors’, describing the division as ‘a line, a thread, a sheet of glass’.

The stories in The Watcher by the Threshold have an eerie feel reminiscent of the ghost stories of M. R. James but played out in the wilds of Scotland where the physical perils of bog and mountainside await alongside more metaphysical dangers.   The Watcher by the Threshold is one of my 20 Books of Summer and my book for July’s theme of the BookBum Club on Goodreads – That Is So Last Year.

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In three words: Eerie, unsettling, supernatural

Try something similar…Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James

John BuchanAbout the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.

My Week in Books – 29th July ’18



New arrivals  

Meet Me at the MuseumMeet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (hardcover)

When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.  When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he. They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet.

Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing. Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

Can their unexpected friendship survive?

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I joined the blog tour for The Vanished Child by M. J. Lee, sharing my review of this genealogical mystery with a real-life historical scandal at its heart.

Tuesday – I hosted a slot on the blog tour for Blood and Ink by D K Marley sharing my Q&A with the author about her historical novel that re-imagines the life of Christopher Marlowe.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.

Thursday – I shared my review of Downed Over Germany by Marion Kummerow, a novella which is a prequel to War Girl Ursula, the first in her War Girl series set in World War 2.  I also published my list for the next Classics Club Spin.  The spin number will be announced on Wednesday 1st August.

Friday – I finally got around to reading a book I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for – Old Baggage by Lissa Evans – and shared others’ enthusiasm for the book in my review.

Saturday – I participated in the blog tour for The Pagoda Tree by Claire Scobie, sharing my review of this fabulous historical novel set in 18th century India.

Sunday – Another blog tour and another review, this time of Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach.  Set in 10th century Iceland, I’m going to steal the author’s description of it as a ‘frozen Western’.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge – 112 out of 156 books read, 5 more than last week
  • Classics Club Challenge – 16 out of 50 books read, same as last week
  • NetGalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2018 (Gold) – 40 ARCs read and reviewed out of 50, 2 more than last week
  • From Page to Screen– 11 book/film comparisons out of 15 completed, same as last week
  • 2018 TBR Pile Challenge – 5 out of 12 books read, same as last week
  • When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018 – 7 out of 12 books read, same as last week
  • What’s In A Name Reading Challenge – 1 out of 6 books read, same as last week
  • Buchan of the Month – 6 out of 12 books read, same as last week
  • 20 Books of Summer Challenge – 8 out of 20 books read, same as last week

Completed challenges

  • Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2018 – 50 books read

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Buchan of the Month: The Watcher by the Threshold by John Buchan
  • Book Review: The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll
  • Book Review: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola
  • Book Review: The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth
  • Book Review: Happiness is a Collage by Gita Reddy
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Promise by Michelle Vernal