Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown

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J. R. de la TORRE BUENO, JR.

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There have been men before now who wrote of the Pacific salmon, especially of the chinooks and their amazing cycle of life…. R. L. Haig-Brown tells it again in "Return to the River"; and to this reviewer's knowledge not one of his predecessors has brought to the telling such a knowledge of the subject, so broad a vision, so fine a feeling for the mountains and waters of the Pacific Northwest, or prose of such magnificent simplicity and beauty…. [His] is a book practically perfect. If Henry Williamson's English counterpart, "Salar the Salmon," found its readers by thousands, Mr. Haig-Brown's audience should be counted by tens of thousands. No sportsman, no nature lover, no conservationist, no person sensitive to the grandeur and sweep of the process of living, can read this book without being profoundly moved.

It is, quite simply, the story of the life of one particular fish, a female chinook, whom the author identifies by naming her Spring….

An ordinary enough story, to be sure….

Yet, as Mr. Haig-Brown tells it, Spring's story is neither simple nor ordinary. There is not a single aspect of the fish's life with which he does not deal thoroughly, giving you all the details of how Spring feeds and grows and moves at each stage of her development, of the dangers she meets and how she is saved from them through a combination of luck and hair-trigger instinct; giving you a fine picture of the work of both state and Federal agencies to preserve the salmon runs…. Giving it to you straight and plain, using the ordinary word whenever he can, the technical word—without apology—whenever there is no substitute for it.

And beyond that, he gives you the men whose lives touch those of the fish, in a series of brief vignettes striking in their brevity, their sharpness, the fundamental justice and humanity of the author's outlook…. [These characters] are individuals who will command your understanding, your sympathy and your memory.

But chiefly it's the fish you will remember, and the magnificence of their struggle up the waterways to die—and, in dying, to give life to a new generation of their kind. "Return to the River" is, in its way, nothing less than a masterpiece; and R. L. Haig-Brown a trained ichthyologist who thinks as a scientist, feels as a humane and broad-minded man and writes like an angel.

J. R. de la Torre Bueno, Jr., "The Long Journey of a Chinook Salmon," in New York Herald Tribune Books, September 28, 1941, p. 1.

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