Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell

Ring of Brbeen ight Water (Penguin Nature Classics Series)
The copy of Ring of Bright Water that I am reading was given to my step father by, I assume, a patient, in 1961. It was first published in 1960. The book has been on my bookshelf since childhood, but I am not sure I read it as a child, I think I only saw it as a film. I certainly remember the death of Midj at the hands, or spade, of a road mender, which is treated in more depth in the book. In the book we are treated to the full cover-up of what can only be described as Midj's murder.


I started to re-read this book having read Seal Morning and wondered if Gavin Maxwell had read it. I began to suspect he had as he almost ticked off tinkers and second site. On page 40 he mentions his doubts as to Rowena's authenticity with regard to puffballs: Sometimes I wonder whether their adulators have ever tasted them; Miss Rowena Farre ate them in Seal Morning, if one may put it that way, and found them delicious.
Frankly you can dip blotting paper into a rich egg batter and fry it and it will taste excellent.


We have all moved on, a long way, since 1960. I can't help feeling that Mr Maxwell and his editors are getting all sort of combobulated about poo this year here is one who leaves close to the house Homeric droppings of dimensions that would make an Alsatian wolfhound appear almost constipated, I think we get the point, just. Similarly a red deer hind, whose fawn Gavin has disturbed stamped and barked unavailingly.


What stands out from this time, as different from our own, is the effort that the author, a member of the aristocracy, puts into justifying his privilege. He knows himself to be privileged and makes effort both in his life, by starting a shark fishery to provide work for the less privileged, and in his writing style, by using complex sentence construction and educated allusions, to justify his privilege by birth. I am not convinced that members of the upper classes feel the same pressure today.