Book Review: 'Wild Harbour'

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

By Ian Macpherson

First published in 1936

A friend sent me this book and I will be reading it over the coming weeks. I have to admit, the harrowed face on the cover makes the book look psychologically challenging and I feel a little reluctant to read it. However, the description on the back suggests it is a must-read for this project.

"This is the world of universal future war. Faced with the threat of bombs, bacteriological warfare and poison gas, a married couple whose pacifism compels them to opt out of 'civilisation', take to the hills to live as fugitives in the wild."

Written in the inter-war years in the UK, this is an immediately fascinating context against which to read this novel. I will be paying attention to the author's historical fantasies about prepping and survival, rural hardship, nature, seasons and domestic threat, as well as the future that he imagines the fictional couple to be preparing for, and ultimately surviving against.

I will undoubtedly be thinking about the significance of the author's temporal situation as I read this book. It was written in a moment in time which was both before and after two major world wars, both of which would have directly touched the author's life. Macpherson was born in 1905 in Scotland and would have been 13 at the end of the First World War, just missing conscription by a few years. He would have likely known plenty of families and friends touched by the devastating losses of the war, if he had not felt these losses directly. Aged 34 at the start of the Second World War, he would have been in the age range to be enlisted to the army by conscription. The book, written in 1936, is described by the publisher - Canongate Books - to be 'set in the Highlands but it tells the story of a world destroyed by a future war, forebodings of which were already discernable in Europe'. Macpherson died in a motorcycle accident in 1944, it is unclear in what circumstances. However, he died before the war's end and would not live to see it resolved. All of this will stick in mind as I read. Review to follow shortly.

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