Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Continuing To Rediscover Rider Haggard

Haggard is proving rather moreish at the moment.

I'd forgotten- or perhaps never fully realised- how much spiritualism and theosophy there is in his books.

Everyone knows King Solomon's Mines and She- the titles that made his name- but they're not necessarily his best. It's a few years since I re-read She but I remember finding it rather sketchy ("Is that all?" I thought as I put it down). By contrast the later books seem more fully-imagined- possibly more "grown-up".  I've now read People of the Mist and the Ancient Allan- one a "lost civilisation" romance and the other an historical novel presented as the memory of a previous incarnation of dear old Allan Quatermain's- and I'm just starting The Ivory Child- which is Quartermain again. Allan has performed prodigious feats at a pheasant shoot and has just made the acquaintance of a beautiful young woman with "rich" hair (they all have rich hair) who tells him she "is not as other women". Her name is Luna and she has a birthmark on her breast that exactly resembles the crescent moon- and she wants to talk to him about Africa because she feels strangely drawn towards it...

There's a lot of silliness. There's also much wisdom (not only of the theosophical kind), a great deal of choked-back eroticism, lots of bonny fighting and much true feeling.  The heroes are never flawless, their love affairs are frequently tragic (Allan himself has numerous wives and girlfriends die on him), and they are often put in the shade- especially when it comes to brains- by their their cunning, resourceful and heroic African retainers.
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