Jan 25, 2009

The Rocks Remain

by Gavin Maxwell

This is Gavin Maxwell's sequel to Ring of Bright Water, his famous novel about the otter. I found it interesting and enjoyable, and kept finding excuses to sit down in quiet so I could finish it. But I also felt let down and confused by it. I remember having trouble at first getting into Ring of Bright Water because the first chapter or two describe some of Maxwell's experiences traveling abroad, and it took some time for the story to get around to the otter, which was my main interest in reading it. As most of the events led up to how Maxwell acquired his first otter, Mijbil, and how he transported it home, it was, however, still pertinent.

I can't say that about the chapters that appeared superfluous to me in The Rocks Remain. It opens with an entire chapter about an earthquake in Agadir. While I appreciate that Maxwell was in Morocco at the time and could describe first-hand the devastation there, I failed to see how it related to his story about otters. But then, half the book was not about the otters. Maxwell describes difficulties living at his remote Scottish hideaway, efforts he made to modernize the place, and frustrations when fans of his first book discovered the location and came visiting without notice, as tourists. He goes into detail about many mishaps and accidents that befell them: a near-shipwreck on an island in the dark, a fire in the kitchen, a broken tank that flooded half his house. Other chapters veer even farther, covering more of his travels in Morocco, and one section all about a local man named Dugalt who played elaborate pranks on the local priest. While these divergences were annoying, they were also very well-written and entertaining.

I was expecting that the real meat of the book would be the parts about the otters: two from North Africa and two European otters, which he acquired from various people who could not keep them. It was fascinating to read about the otters' very different personalities, and how they responded to people, each other, and Maxwell's dog. It also quickly became apparent that the otters were very much wild animals, difficult to keep contained, and potentially dangerous. When Maxwell finally gave up trying to keep some of his otters from escaping and let them roam free, I was surprised that he gave no thought (or did not express it) to the impact of releasing a foreign species, and a predator at that, into the local environment. The book ended abruptly at this point, and even though I felt dissatisfied, I'm anxious to read the next one and find out what happened, as I can only assume there were negative consequences.

Rating: 3/5                  192 pages, 1963

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Anonymous said...

Jeez, I hate it when a novel ends abruptly. It's like the author said, okay, I'm tired of this, so I'm quitting NOW! It's just not right.

I didn't realize that Maxwell was so popular, either. Interesting...

BTW, I always chuckle at your cat when I visit this site. (It is your cat, isn't it)? Her tail is a giant "C," like she knows she's a cat, and she's proud of it!

Jeane said...

Chartroose- I'm glad my kitty makes you chuckle. He's quite proud of being a cat- often obnoxiously so!

I knew Ring of Bright Water was popular, but I had no idea how extensive its fame was until I read about how much tourists bothered the author.

The book ended so suddenly I was astonished, and annoyed. If anything, it's urged me to seek out the third installment, even though I know it will be hard to find (my public library has nothing by Maxwell).

Bookfool said...

I read Ring of Bright Water as a RD condensed book. Sounds like that was a good thing. The otters were also my interest. This one sounds a little too disjointed for me.

Bybee said...

Now I want to read Ring of Bright Water.