Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown The Junior Bookshelf - Essay

The Junior Bookshelf

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There is a wider tendency nowadays to take the romance out of more than one field of old-fashioned adventure. [In The Whale People] the author takes the old idea of fun and games among the Red Indians and transforms tradition into reality without gilding the pill in any way. Life for the Indian Peoples of the Northern Pacific coast appears as a hard business in which most of the pleasure comes from winning a living, an existence even, from the nature around them. The chief delight and ambition of Atlin, chief elect of the Hotsath tribe, is the killing, and capture of whales, and the way to success is hard and wearisome, spiritually as well as physically. One never feels really warm while reading this new book by the author of Starbuck Valley Winter, or really dry either. Nevertheless one thoroughly enjoys the rigours and vigour of the hunting and hardening incidents upon which the story revolves. There are many fine descriptions of fights with whales of various sizes and towards the end a human and even homely tinge to the story in the behaviour of Atlin over the wooing of a daughter of a rival chief. The total effect is at least heroic in tone if not quite epic, and a most successful study of a little known people in fictional guise.

"'The Whale People'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 26, No. 5, November, 1962, p. 261.