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Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps Reviews

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps by Ursula Buchan

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

A Life of John Buchan

Ursula Buchan

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 18 Apr 2019
ISBN: 9781408870815
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4 stars out of 5
John Carey
7 Apr 2019

"it reads like a big, rambling Victorian novel, and takes you, as novels do, into other people’s lives"

Ursula Buchan is [John Buchan's] granddaughter, and her book draws on a wealth of family papers and memories. Though factual, it reads like a big, rambling Victorian novel, and takes you, as novels do, into other people’s lives. She compounds the feeling of intimacy by referring to her grandfather as “JB”, which is what his family called him, and to his wife, Lady Susan Grosvenor, as “Susie”, which is what he called her. Though she admits he had a few faults (a self-made man’s vanity about honours and titles being one), he emerges from her account glowing with sincerity and goodness... His granddaughter thinks he could have written a great novel had he lived longer. But that seems doubtful, because he did not care enough for that kind of success. He was not an artistic type. 

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Allan Massie
19 Apr 2019

"excellent... she gives us a strong sense of both the man and his milieu"

Ursula never knew her grandfather, but she was close to his widow, Susie. Her book is not hagiography, but if it isn’t ‘warts and all’, that is because there were, in truth, very  few warts, only small, scarcely discernible ones. She gives us a strong sense of both the man and his milieu. In short, she has written a good book about a good and extraordinary man who touched life at so many different points and adorned most of what he touched.