Dick's birdwatching discovery turns a pleasant cruise of the Hebrides into a desperate chase. Soon the Swallows and Amazons are busy dodging the savage natives and evading the ruthless pursuit of a fanatic egg-collector who is determined to kill a pair of rare birds.
Reviewed on 26th September 2012
Great Northern?, the last complete story in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, is a much better adventure than I remembered from childhood. The three groups of siblings are sailing the Sea Bear off the Scottish coast with Captain Flint (whether this is meant to be real or another story made up by the children is unclear, but personally I favour the former position) when Dick makes a remarkable discovery - but then must protect it from danger.
This novel focusses heavily on Dick, but with good chunks of the narrative with Roger and several of the other characters. If anything, it is the mates - Peggy and Susan - who receive the least attention, a problem they have suffered from throughout the series. The plot deals with an interesting conflict between two different sides to science and presents quite a lot of educational and philosophical information to its young target audience.
My memory from childhood was that this was one of the weakest of the series, and my recollections of what was going to happen slightly shaded my experience of re-reading. Yet this time I thought it stronger, and once I got past one particularly awkward scene I relaxed and found it to be quite a good adventure. Maybe not the finale that I think the series deserved but certainly better than many other children's books.