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Prester John

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  652 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Nineteen-year-old David Crawfurd travels from Scotland to South Africa to work as a storekeeper. On the voyage he encounters again John Laputa, the celebrated Zulu minister, of whom he has strange memories.

In his remote store David finds himself with the key to a massive uprising led by the minister, who has taken the title of the mythical priest-king, Prester John.

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published 1910 by George H. Doran
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Jul 23, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it
Published in 1910, this story about a Zulu uprising in South Africa as experienced by a young Scottish immigrant, is a good read, in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling or H. Rider Haggard: adventure in the furthest outposts of the British Empire.

But what makes this book worth reading is how many things the author takes for granted that we now know aren't so, and even find distasteful. The racism of the book is shocking precisely because it is so casual and thoughtless, the innate assumption of superi
Jan 01, 2009 K. rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Garrison
Sep 16, 2016 Daniel Garrison rated it it was amazing
I haven’t read a lot of John Buchan’s books, but the few I have – The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast – I have enjoyed. For a writer of his era – the early 1900’s – I find his style easy to read and engaging.

Prester John is set in South Africa and revolves around the Zulu uprising and the unintentional pivotal role that one young, adventurous Scotsman plays in it. It’s a fast adventure with several twists and turns and the story kept me turning the pages. It made me enthused to read more f
Apr 10, 2013 Avril rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 29, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
My fascination with John Buchan is growing thin. Prester John still has all the means of inspiration for the boy adventurer--acts of bravery told with a controlled and admirable dose of modesty, detailed strategies made on the fly, acknowledgement of missteps and miscalculations always righted through sheer will, and a straightforward mission that doesn’t leave the young hero room for doubting his sense of right.

The only problem is that Buchan’s love-fest with the “white man’s gift of responsib
Buchan, John. PRESTER JOHN. (1910; this ed. 1994). ***. Action! Adventure! Amazing escapes! African tribesmen! They’re all in this novel from Scotsman Buchan. When this novel was published in book form (it was first serialized in a boy’s magazine in a very different form) it was an instant bestseller, and launched Buchan’s career. In his lifetime, he wrote forty books – eleven of them novels. To date, I have only read three of them, including this one. The other two were: “The Thirty-nine Steps, ...more
Robert Dodds
Jun 04, 2012 Robert Dodds rated it liked it
As a schoolboy in the 1960s I remember the thrill whenever our English teacher Mr Hogan, a bearded man with an American accent, came into the classroom and said "get out your 'Prester Johns' boys!" I was probably about eleven years old, and hearing this book read aloud was one of the rare pleasures of the school day. However, I could remember nothing of the story, so I have just re-read it. The first thing that must be said is that it makes an unquestioning assumption of the superiority of 'the ...more
May 21, 2016 Julia rated it really liked it
Enthralling adventure story about a Scottish teenager who travels to South Africa in the early 1900's to take a job as storekeeper in a remote trading post. He finds himself at several strategic and mystical junctures leading up to a great multi-tribe uprising against white European colonists. The African chief, John Laputa, was a charismatic warrior king, who had been educated in Great Britain and was a celebrated Christian minister there. We participate in many thrilling adventure chases in th ...more
Maurice Halton
Feb 28, 2013 Maurice Halton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taken in its time, this book has much to offer the student of social history. Buchan was the ultra-imperialist and arch racist. Thus, he takes for granted that his pre- First World War readers will automatically accept the inferiority of African, Dutch, Portuguese and other non-British characters. Otherwise, the quality of the plot and storyline are of the best ‘ripping yarn’ quality. If the basis of the plot were (as they almost certainly have been) transposed to suit a more PC setting, it woul ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 27, 2011 Nandakishore Varma rated it it was ok
Shelves: thriller
Another "classic" unpalatable to me because of its orientalist attitude.
Czarny Pies
Feb 15, 2017 Czarny Pies rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Les gens qui veulent revivre l'expérience coloniale en Afrique
Prester John est un roman de jeunesse de John Buchan un des tres grands auteurs de thriller de tous les temps qui raconte l'histoire de la suppression d'une insurrection Zulu en Afrique Australe au début du vingtième siècle. J'avais 14 ans quand je l'ai lu il y a cinquante ans et j'ai été choqué par le nom le raciste. J'étais peut-être plus sensible parce que l'on était aux débuts de mouvements de sanctions contre le régime Apartheid en Afrique de Sud. Quand même ce roman est bel et bien raciste ...more
Jan 13, 2017 Jane rated it really liked it
John, darling - I wish I could travel back in time and shake that racist/imperialist nonsense out of you, because then we'd have a cracking boy's adventure story, right up there with Stevenson's Treasure Island and Kipling's Kim. You are one of my favorite storytellers: anyone who reads Ian Fleming, Ken Follett or Jeffrey Archer should know your books. The 39 Steps and John McNab are
Edwardian entertainment at its best. And Prester John? You brilliantly mix the medieval myth about the great Nesto
Chris Passingham
Oct 11, 2016 Chris Passingham rated it liked it
Definitely not a 21st century book. Avoid this book if you are easily offended by racism or if you cannot read books without taking them out of their historical context
I got a bit confused reading this book because I kept getting mixed up between the author’s name and the name of one of the main protagonists. Too many Johns – what was the author thinking??

Most famous for his novel The thirty-nine steps, which has been made into a movie several times, this book sees our young hero, David Crawfurd, travelling to Blauwildebeestfontein (yes, that’s right, Blauwildebeestfontein – Monty Python couldn’t have done better if they tried) in sort of deepest darkest colon
Graham Tapper
Aug 12, 2011 Graham Tapper rated it really liked it
With this novel I have now completed all of John Buchan's novels. This one is not a Richard Hannay story but one concerning a young adventurer, David Crawfurd. Only three of Buchan's novels involve Hannay.

In Buchan's story, the title character, Prester John, is one of the last kings of Africa, in which it differs from the established myths concerning this character. The story starts early in Crawfurd's life, where he encounters a visiting African preacher carrying out secret rituals of a definit
Oct 11, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well this book starts with an admission - I have never read any of John Buchan's work outside the Richard Hannay stories so when I saw this title it struck a chord and I set out to read it ( I still feel the 39 Steps is one of my favourite stories, as well the films that sprang from it)

The book is set during the Zulu uprising ( at the beginning of the 20th century) and charts the events against the legend of Prester John. they centre around a small cast of characters though they are spread acros
Jan 07, 2008 Adam rated it liked it
Nineteen-year-old David Crawfurd travels from Scotland to South Africa to seek his fortune as a store-keeper. On the voyage he encounters John Laputa, the celebrated Zulu minister, of whom he has strange memories. In his remote store David finds himself with the key to a massive uprising led by the minister, who has taken the title of the mythical priest-king, Prester John. David\'s courage and his understanding of this man take him to the heart of the uprising, a secret cave in the Rooirand. Th ...more
Sep 18, 2015 Emma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this as an extra for a module on the British Empire for University and to be honest I would never have picked it up otherwise. This just is not my type of book. It is quite clearly written for young children, well young boys at the time but I think young girls would enjoy it too.

Also, it is quite hard to get past the blatant racism. Don't get me wrong I don't mind racism in books when it serves a purpose either to the story or the character or it is a book of its time where rac
Mar 04, 2011 ^ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you haven't read JB before, then start on John MacNab, 39 Steps or Greenmantle.
Recommended to ^ by: my father
John Buchan writes adventure stories like none other; i.e. superbly well. The story of Prester John may be as politically incorrect nowadays as most of H Rider Haggard's output; but that doesn't prevent the pace, imagination, content, and sheer descriptive brilliance of his storytelling from totally wrapping up and enthralling his 21st century reader.

This is a book that I prefer to read in hardcopy; mine is a pocket sized Thomas Nelson green cloth hardback of 1945 (first published in this serie
Jan 21, 2014 Allen rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Set in post-Boer War South Africa, in northern Transvaal against the Mozambique border, this is a great adventure story if you don't mind 19th century British Empire attitudes and stereotypes. David Crawfurd at the age of 19 sets out to seek his fortune as an assistant storekeeper in a South African remote village and finds himself in the middle of a secret uprising of several African tribes against white European colonialists. They have found a leader in the charismatic John Laputa whose orator ...more
Dec 28, 2014 Gibson rated it it was ok
I bought this at a Trash and Treasure stall on a whim, to re-read a book that was on my second form reading list at school over 50 years ago.
It think it was written for young male readers, and it is a suitably ripping yarn for that demographic.
It was written over one hundred years ago and is better enjoyed if that context is kept firmly in mind. Some readers will label it racist. Attitudes towards race and other nations have changed a great deal since Prester John. Our attitudes to race will cha
Oct 31, 2013 Morris rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: absolutely no one
Shelves: adventure, boys-own
So very very dire.

I enjoyed the 39 Steps and wanted to read something else by the same author. I have been intrigued by the legends of Prester John for a number of years and so the two came together serendipitously. Unfortunately, this is probably the worst book I have ever read to completion.

To start with, it is wildly racist. It may be possible to forgive such a thing were the novel itself any good, you may chalk-it up to being of its time. But the novel is no good. The racism oozes through ev
Jan 05, 2012 Steve rated it it was ok
A standard Buchan with lots of boys-own style adventures. Unfortunately it's very difficult to forgive the explicit racism and colonial empire viewpoint even given the sensibilities of the time. Heinlein and Buchan would have gotten along well I think. Furthermore when it comes to female characters, unlike Tolkien who just didn't 'get' female characters, Buchan just doesn't include them at all.

Overall worth a read if you're looking for a bit of an adventure, but it's not up to his classics like
Jul 29, 2016 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1910 the thought of finding adventure and glory in exotic undiscovered lands would have been a staple boyhood fantasy. Buchan feeds these dreams with a tale of an earnest Scottish youth travelling to Deepest South Africa to make his way as a colonial storekeeper. There he helps to thwart a native uprising led by John Laputa, a preacher rallying the tribes around an ancient legend of the mythical priest-king Prester John. Much derring-do in the wilds of Blaauwilderbeestfontein (yes, really), w ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Kim rated it liked it
If nothing else, it was interesting to see South Africa through the eyes of a young Scotsman. The language is of its time (fair warning), but there is respect shown for the warrior tradition. The view of how different the races are is very clearly stated here, but also the need for respect among nations and for other humans. Interesting to see that interplay here, as it seems to me that while Buchan is very much of his time (as he should be), he also seems farsighted and perceptive in his attitu ...more
Thom Swennes
Scotsman David Crawfurd is forced to break off his formal education upon the sudden death of his father and sails to South Africa in the hope of bettering himself. It doesn’t take long before he finds himself unwillingly involved in a violent upraising of the natives. This African spoof is much in the spirit of works by Wilbur Smith but here the comparison ends. Although it is a fast moving and interesting story, I don’t see it as complete. I think the reader will notice that it lacks “meat” and ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Eunice rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-2014
Oh dear - I used to love John Buchan when I was a teenager and still enjoy the Dick Hannay books despite some of the outdated values. I remembered this as a book I had enjoyed but alas it didn't live up to the memory. The structure of the plot is clunky with the hero/narrator not being present at some of the key events as well as being forced to explain from time to time why he made some fundamentally stupid decisions required to keep the plot on track. So it doesn't even work for me as a "rippi ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Oct 07, 2012 Marts (Thinker) rated it really liked it
Written by John Buchan, author of the more popular 'Thirty-Nine Steps' and 'Greenmantle', Prester John tells of the adventures of David Crawfurd who at the age of 19, travels from Scotland to South Africa to work as a storekeeper. Remembering previous childhood adventures in which he met a Zulu minister called Laputa, David again meets this strange man on his voyage and thus starts a series of events which lead to an uprising amongst the natives, massive bloodshed, and eventually triumph and for ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an especially interesting specimen of the imperial romance. I'm fascinated by Buchan's reworking of Haggard as well as the Christianity and explicit racism of the narrator (more Christian and more explicitly racist than's Haggard narrators). What I'm not aware of yet is Buchan's position in relation to his narrator, and I hope to explore this. _Prester John_ is a crucial part of the imperial romance genre and most certainly an important bridge between a work like _She_ and Buchan's spy c ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Tracy rated it really liked it
Since reading "The Thirty-Nine Steps" several years ago, I've been hooked on John Buchan's suspenseful writing. Some of his other novels, like "Greenmantle," are easier to find in second-hand book stores and thrift shops, but I'd never seen a copy of "Prester John" until I found a free e-book version on TheGutenbergProject.

As always, his narrator is self-deprecating, honest, and well-educated, which makes the story-telling first-rate. This one was quite dated in its politics, but still a rippin
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Goodreads Librari...: Corrections 2 14 Nov 02, 2015 10:48AM  
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John Buchan (1st Baron Tweedsmuir) was a Scottish novelist and public servant who combined a successful career as an author of thrillers, historical novels, histories and biographies with a parallel career in public life. At the time of his death he was Governor-General of Canada.

Buchan was educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. After a brief career in law he went to South Africa in 1902 wh
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