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The Thirty-Nine Steps
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August 2018: Espionage > The Thirty Nine steps | John Buchan | 2? 2.5 stars on a good day

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Idit | 1028 comments Here's the thing... I was sure I would love this book.
don't even know why.

but I didn't. I really really didn't.

The Thirty-Nine Steps started ok. A expat back in England. can't stand the life in London, almost leaves when finally - excitement. A neighbor who is some sort of a journalist / self made spy is onto some German secret (pre-WWI days).
Our hero got swept by the drama and involved in this adventure.
so far so good.
after that, the only part I liked was the language old in a cool, smooth way, and the escape in the moors - the nature.
Everything else missed the mark for me.
He was absolutely passive. everything just luckily or unluckily happened to him. And whenever he did something, he explained it with big words, but it came down to just doing stuff for no good reason.
I have some expectation from a detective genre that it would have some intelligent deductive reasoning behind their actions, but here ... everything was just dumb luck.
It remind me of what frustrated me in The Scarlet Pimpernel. You write a book about this amazing spy... but they don't really do anything amazing. It's kind of a miracle anything they do succeed.

I found it frustrating and unexciting.


Idit | 1028 comments this is basically what I would write, if I knew how to review well:
(link to someone's else review)
"The book is every bit as readable as it is bad"


Theresa | 6338 comments Interesting review Idit ... I've been thinking about reading it for one of the Pop Sugar 2018 challenges (book for a movie I've already seen) as I of course have seen Hitchcock's 'The 39 Steps' a million times but never read it. In some ways the movie is also a bit unexciting...but so wonderfully old-fashioned and with all those scenes on the moor, it's fun watch.

There is a wonderfully inventive entertaining play version that ran both Off Broadway and on Broadway for a couple of years - I think Roundabout Theatre Company produced it. Very slapstick, used a tiny cast of 4 or 5 who kept switching characters throughout. Very farcical in a 'Noises Off' kind of way. Absolutely loved it. Made the film look really dull for a while there.


Idit | 1028 comments I need to rewatch the movie, and your description of the off broadway show sounds awesome. Reminds me of The Fantasticks - with cast of 5. You have to be creative with very few people


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 418 comments I also read this for the espionage tag, and was also disappointed. Surprising, as it is considered a classic.

"He was absolutely passive. everything just luckily or unluckily happened to him. And whenever he did something, he explained it with big words, but it came down to just doing stuff for no good reason. "

I agree! He just relied on the universe's love and protection of him, which fed into his own sense of self-importance. Lines like

'I was convinced that somehow I was needed to help this business through - that without me it would all go to blazes'

And he did not think twice about the danger that he exposed to all the innocent bystanders who he stumbled across!


Theresa | 6338 comments As you saw from my separately posted review, I did not have a problem with that for a few reasons: it was a more innocent time, the narrative first person sounds like someone telling a tale of something that happened to him once upon a time, and describing his actions in a way to impress and justify them to others, and it was writ in the style of American Pulp Fiction of the early 20th century, which was not particularly sophisticated, nor featured protagonists that were introspective.


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