#BookReview Buchan of the Month: Sir Quixote of the Moors by John Buchan

20200118_131258About the Book

In the mid-sixteenth century, Jean de Rohaine, a middle-aged French nobleman, journeys to Scotland in search of adventure and a new beginning. In Scotland he meets up with his old friend, Quentin Kennedy, who informs him of a great battle to be waged. Yet what is the Frenchman’s horror when he rides with Kennedy’s men in search of honour, but finds instead that the “war” is with unarmed religious dissidents, “Covenanters,” whom he watches massacred.

Disgusted, he sets off alone across the barren moors, where he wanders until he comes to a cottage containing a beautiful and unprotected young woman, Anne. Rohaine promises to be her protector, but his ideals of honour and duty will be put to the test when he finds himself gradually falling in love with her….

Format: Hardcover (182 pages) Publisher: T Fisher Unwin
Publication date: 1924 [1895]   Genre: Historical fiction, romance

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My Review

Buchan’s first published novel, Sir Quixote of the Moors is described in one edition as ‘A Charming Narrative of the Scottish Moors depicting the Tragic Love Story of a Gallant Gentleman’. In the book’s prologue, Buchan presents what follows as an account written by a French knight, Jean de Rohaine, even going so far as to invent an explanation for why it is in English and pointing out changes he has made in an editorial capacity. The structural device of discovered papers would recur in later Buchan novels.

The book’s title clearly references Cervantes’ Don Quixote and both heroes share an aspiration to embody in their actions the highest levels of chivalry. The majority of Buchan’s novel is taken up with de Rohaine’s moral dilemma about his growing attraction to Anne, the young woman he pledges to protect when her father and her betrothed are forced into hiding because of their religious views. The fact he arrived at their door lost and near to exhaustion and was shown great hospitality weighs on his conscience.

As mentioned in my earlierblog post introducing the book, Buchan’s first biographer Janet Adam Smith reports he was annoyed his US publisher changed the ending. Having now read the book and compared the two endings, I can see why he was upset. Without giving anything away, the alternative endings to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations spring to mind.

Although rather a slight story and probably largely of interest due to being his first novel, Sir Quixote of the Moors shows early signs of the literary craftsmanship for which Buchan would become known. In particular, the Scottish landscape is vividly described even if poor Jean experiences it predominantly in the cold, the wind and the rain.

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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.