The Thirty-Nine Steps


I was familiar with the story, having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 adaptation, but while there are plenty of similarities, the book is markedly different.

The book is, naturally, a little slower but this is balanced out by some nice touches as we dig into how our protagonist, Richard Hannay, evades the police and his other pursuers.

Having said that, we don’t spend much time building tension, it’s largely running and escaping, but when he is cornered or captured there is little time devoted to raising the stakes, as you would see in more modern novels.

Unlike the various adaptations, it’s also very light on women. They make almost no appearance with little more than a passing mention. This limits the possibilities for engagement or interaction, although it is partially made up for using internal monologue. It lacks the banter of the movie adaptations though, and is poorer for it.

Another LibriVox recording, this time read by Adrian Praetzellis. Well read too and he has a voice that is very suitable for the material, quite formal, but clear. As the story is told from the first person, it was easy to imagine his was our protagonist’s voice.

Not a bad book, and quite short, with some inventive sequences, but ultimately it was difficult to empathize and it lacked depth. Worth a go if you’re looking for some straightforward boy’s own action.

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This was an copy of the book

Reviewed: 31st August 2015