Buchan of the Month/Book Review: Salute to Adventurers by John Buchan

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20190202_150326About the Book

Andrew Garvald is a young Scottish merchant who has bravely come to make his fortune in a newly colonised America. Outlawed from Virginian society for opposing the London traders’ monopoly, his friends are Red Ringan, a pirate and gentleman adventurer and Shalah, an exiled Indian prince. When Garvald is faced with a deadly foe, the stakes are high – the love of a beautiful lady and the very existence of Virginia.

Format: Hardcover (380 pp.)    Publisher: Thomas Nelson & Son
Published: 1915      Genre: Fiction, Adventure

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Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com
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Find Salute to Adventurers on Goodreads

My Review

Salute to Adventurers is the second book in my Buchan of the Month reading project for 2019.  You can find out more about the project and my reading list for 2019 here.  You can also read my spoiler-free introduction to Salute to Adventurers here.

It was chance that made me select Salute to Adventurers as my Buchan of the Month book to follow Prester John, which I read and reviewed last month. Once I started reading it, I began to appreciate the similarities between the two novels although Salute to Adventurers is more than merely Prester John transposed from South Africa to the American state of Virginia.

However, like Prester John, Salute to Adventurers is an adventure story featuring a young hero, Andrew Garvald, who travels from his native Scotland to make his fortune abroad. Once there, he gets caught up in attempts to foil an uprising of the native Indians roused to uncharacteristic action by an inspirational but misguided (rather than malevolent as in Prester John) leader.   Certainly, Andrew Garvald’s adversary lacks the powerful characterisation of John Laputa in Prester John.

Like David Crawfurd in Prester John, John Buchan endows his hero with a young person’s sense of adventure, seemingly tireless energy and just a little recklessness.  There are exciting action scenes, perilous treks across wild country, narrow escapes, some remarkable coincidences (or are they fate?) and a final confrontation with the native Indians involved in the uprising.  As you would expect from Buchan, there are some glorious descriptions of the scenery, more remarkable for the fact that the author had never crossed the Atlantic at the time of writing the book.

Buchan also introduces some love interest in the shape of a young woman, Elspeth Blair, whom Andrew first encounters in Scotland in curious circumstances.  The lady in question conforms to many of the typical features of a Buchan heroine: she’s slim, beautiful, possesses a lovely singing voice and is a skilled horsewoman.  Buchan also provides his hero with a rival for Elspeth’s affections who eventually becomes an unexpected ally.

Themes that occur frequently in many of Buchan’s book are present in Salute to Adventurers:  fortitude, duty, sacrifice. Those who have followed my previous reviews of John Buchan books will know that an influential text for Buchan was The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  They may not be surprised to learn then that, like some of Christian’s fellow travellers in The Pilgrim Progress, not all of Andrew’s comrades make it to the end of the journey unscathed.

In my review of Prester John,  I admitted I found the racial stereotyping, colonialism and outdated paternalism that pervaded that book problematic.  In Salute to Adventurers there is still an element of the white man representing civilization and the native people representing savagery but I felt it was less marked.  One reason for this is the positive characterisation of the Native American guide, Shalah, who is shown not only to possess admirable tracking skills but who plays a key role in safeguarding Andrew and his comrades.  He also acts as an advocate for peace amongst his people.

Salute to Adventurers is one of the few John Buchan books I’ve not read before and I found it an entertaining, well-written adventure story that pays homage to the pioneer spirit.  Next month’s Buchan of the Month is The Path of the King. Look out for my spoiler free introduction to the book next week and my review towards the end of March.

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In three words: Adventure, action, spirited

Try something similar:  Prester John by John Buchan (read my review here)

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.

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