Dec 2, 2009

Raven Seek Thy Brother

by Gavin Maxwell

This is the third book in Maxwell's series that began with Ring of Bright Water. Like the second, The Rocks Remain, it focuses more on the author's personal trials than on the otters. Maxwell explains in an opening chapter that when he wrote The Rocks Remain he could not share all details of what was happening at Camusfearna, but now in Raven Seek Thy Brother all is divulged, to make clear why his idyll was spoiled and eventually abandoned. He states early in the book that after a failed relationship his ex cursed the rowan tree on his land and following that misfortunes one after another came upon Camusfearna. The reader learns about various accidents, management problems and financial straits, as well as the author's debilitating health problems. There is a curious chapter about local tales of supernatural events, including a poltergeist that appears to haunt Maxwell's own house for a time. Another chapter describes his travels to Iceland in order to learn about eider duck colonies, in the interest of establishing his own to gather the down for profit. I enjoyed reading about when he took his two deerhounds (older and inexperienced compared to the other dogs) coursing for hares on the moors with a local club. The book ends, sadly, with the disintegration of Camusfearna and his efforts to ensure a safe future for the otters. My assumption at the end of The Rocks Remain that he had let go free otters which were not native was mistaken; here it was made clear to me that only the Scottish otters were released into the wild (and some years later one returned to him after it had been injured, in a remarkable reunion); the foreign species he tried to place in zoos when he could no longer keep them. The chapters about the otters are the highlight of this book, but as the best one comes at the very end it felt kind of belated. The narrative is sometimes a muddle (I could not make sense of the section describing how he was incriminated by the Italian law after publishing God Protect Me From My Friends) but I still really enjoy the quality and style of Maxwell's writing.

Rating: 3/5                      233 pages, 1968


  1. I'm wondering if this is based on a true story.

  2. He certainly wrote it as if it were. I had no doubts until I began reading about the supernatural occurrences. The author almost sounded skeptical himself, but then described windows being blown out of the house and objects flying off shelves, with no clear explanation as to what caused them. I didn't quite know what to think.

  3. I like all these titles, but I get antsy when people write about supernatural events in a nonfictiony way and then don't tell me what was actually causing them. I know there are more things in heaven and earth etc., but anyway I do not believe in poltergeists.

  4. Jenny- I know what you mean. It makes it hard to come away from the book feeling satisfied, in a way.


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