Regarded by many critics as one of the finest historical novels ever written, "Midwinter" tells the tale of Alastair Maclean, confidant of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who embarks on a secret mission to raise support for the Jacobite cause in the West of England.
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About the Author
John Buchan was a Scottish diplomat, barrister, journalist, historian, poet and novelist. He published nearly 30 novels and seven collections of short stories. He was born in Perth, an eldest son, and studied at Glasgow and Oxford. After spells as a war correspondent, Lloyd George's Director of Information and Conservative MP, Buchan moved to Canada in 1935. He served as Governor General there until his death in 1940.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
John Buchan shared at least two things in common with fellow Scot Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -the ability to write memorable crime novels and stories ,and a growing frustration that success in this field was diverting attention from their other works .Doyle was so exasperated by the public affection for Sherlock Holmes that he resorted at one point to killing him off ,and while Buchan never did this with Richard Hannay there were expressions of a mild irritation that his public always wanted more in that vein ,rather than of what ,in his autobiography "Memory-Hold -The-Door" he styled his "serious novels".There were four such self-styled "serious books " ,namely "The Free Fishers "."Witch Wood " " The Blanket of the Dark" and ,the book now under consideration "Midwinter",a curious but compelling historical novel . It is a novel of the second Jacobite rebellion of 1745 ,when forces loyal to the House of Stuart (deposed in 1688) rose againt the Hanoverian dynasty ,and George the Second .The first such rebellion ,in 1715 was a relatively trifling matter but in 1745 things were very different as Scots rallied to the banner of Bonnie Prince Charlie ,the Young Pretender and advanced deep into England The protagonist of the book is Alastair Maclean ,a young Highland Scot ,soldier and Jacobite to the core .A confidante of the Pretender and his Generals ,Maclean is sent on a secret mission into the heart of England to make contact with and gauge the likely support from key landowners and possible Jacobite sympathisers .En route he is benighted in the mysterious Wychwood forest and assisted to reach the home of Lord Cornbury by the enigmatic "Midwinter" ,the leader of an outlaw band known as "the naked men " who represent ,both literally and symbolicallly ,"old England" .which Buchan found so beguilling-a pre Christian land .The "naked men " are mysterious but not threatening and there is none of the menace that seeps from the pages of the "sister novel " "Witch Wood" where paganism is viewed as a dark force ,not ,as in this book ,a benign symbol of the old England and love for it . Maclean finds a warm welcome among the landowners but no practical expressions of support as they await the outcome of military events before making any firm promises of aid .Maclean is soon plunged into a double mystery -the disappearance of a beautiful heiress Claudia Grevet and the identity of a traitor to the Jacobite cause whose trail Maclean he up from intercepted papers.These contain details of pro Jacobite forces purpotedly arriving from Wales.Maclean needs to inform the Jacobite command which is then advancing towards Derby ,deep into England .He meets obstacles ,in the form of adversse weather ,enemy action and betrayal ,as well as plain old bad luck .By his side frequently is none other than Doctor Samuel Johnson ,tutor to Claudia and a closet Jacobite ,here portrayed as a blundering ,blustering but stalwart and resolute man . Buchan deftly works several of Johnson's most famous sayings into the narrative without making this device appear false or grating in any way .Maclean also finds support from Midwinter and his men ,not for dynastic or political reasons -they stand apart from politics and the rise and fall of ruling houses-but from common humanity. There is a dualism at work in the book .In part it is about the unch