Title: The Thirty-Nine Steps
Author: John Buchan
Originally published: 1915
This is a top shelf book.
If you were to ask me what type of fiction I normally lean towards I would not say “adventure novels”. I’m not even a big mystery novel person. I have nothing against them but I certainly don’t have any personal desire to pick them up. I picked up The Thirty-Nine Steps at the Strand Bookstore in New York City when Sam handed it to me from a random shelf and said, “This was made into a movie.” I had never heard of the novel or the movie but I read the first page quickly and was intrigued. I made its way back to Canada with me.
I finished this in a day. I read most of it in one sitting, only putting it down to head to my parents’ house for dinner. The first two pages were brief background information on the protagonist, Richard Hannay, and then it immediately went into action and did not let up from that point forward. Fact-paced and thrilling, it read like a movie itself.
Having first been published nearly one hundred years ago there were a few references that were completely out of date but nothing a quick Google check couldn’t fix. Buchan is also Scottish so expect some extremely well done but at first glance hard to read brogue dialogue. Seriously, though, when I say well done I mean it: you might as well have a Scottish man reading it out loud to you, it’s that good.
Was this an incredibly intelligent, thought-provoking, and rich with meaning read? No, not particularly. It was exactly what it’s advertised as: an adventure novel. That doesn’t mean you feel as if you’ve been dumbed down a little as you turn the pages but it certainly means that you’re going to have a hell of a good time while reading them.
Thinking about this book makes me happy. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was worth the chance – a nice break from the heavier options in the world.