Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Pool and Rapid: The Story of a River] is a nature-story of a decidedly original kind. By making a British Columbian river the central object of his narrative, Mr. Haig-Brown has ingeniously avoided one of the principal difficulties with which authors of this class of work have to contend. A story written round the life of an animal is almost compelled to falsify Nature to some extent by endowing the creature with a too human mentality. Personality conferred upon an inanimate object, on the other hand, is at once recognized as a harmless literary convention, which leaves the author free to adhere strictly to the truth in dealing with the living accessories to his picture. The story of the Tashish river begins, quite frankly, with a fascinating piece of Indian mythology to account for its creation, and the stream is everywhere treated as a human soul with a markedly feminine temperament…. This treatment, applied to an animal, would amount to an intolerable piece of "nature-faking," but here it is unobjectionable, since it cannot mislead. The life in the water and beside it, of the salmon, the bears, the beavers, the deers and the birds is left to be described with all the accuracy of a keen observer who knows what he is talking about and is under no temptation to distort his facts. Much of the charm of the book is due to such descriptions, though a large element of human interest is also contributed, through the introduction of the first settler...

(The entire section is 459 words.)