Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown Ann Schakne - Essay

Ann Schakne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Haig-Brown has written a moving and exciting novel about the majestic vastness of the Pacific Northwest and a man whose spirit was wholly given to it….

["On the Highest Hill"] is written with resilience and strength. Mr. Haig-Brown knows and loves the mountains of Canada about which he writes and the way of a man among them, whose only need and only peace lie in their desert vastness. He details without emphasis, but with force, their wild, intrinsic beauty and the taxing skills required to cope with them. Colin is the contemporary Canadian equivalent of the mountain men whom A. B. Guthrie described so well in "The Big Sky." Like Boone Caudill he comprehends no satisfaction except in nature, and man-devised standards of behavior, emotion and conformity are beyond his understanding or achievement….

Above all, he is an anachronism and when, inevitably, the world intrudes upon the mountain fastnesses he wants for himself, the end is as preordained as it is tragic. But this is tragedy in the classic sense, rising out of the very nature of the protagonist and not out of the petty, contrived strivings of our contemporary world. There is magnificence of spirit in a magnificent setting and for that spirit the reader feels pity, terror and awe, but never foolish regret.

Ann Schakne, "Between Two Worlds," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1949 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 8, 1949, p. 5.