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The Riddle of the Sands (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – December 10, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is narrated by an English gentleman Currthuers, who received an unexpected invitation of duck shooting from an old friend Davies. Being tired of his neglected position in "society," he accepts it to go to the North Sea only to find that he is involved in a mystery, or "the riddle of the Sands." His friend claims there's something in the air, something hiding behind the misty coast of Germany. But how can they prove it?
As a story, "The Riddle of the Sands" is far from perfect. It is full of authentic descriptions of local landscapes (the author actually cruised his yacht there), but at the same time frequent reference to the geographical data and nautical terms are a bit wearisome to readers, and moreover, the narrator often refers us to the maps in the appendix. Those things only slow down the action of the novel, and actually the book sometimes has to go through lull.
But, wait a while. The story gets gradually faster, and as the adventure of the heroes slowly gets near to the core of the plot, the tale becomes more and more gripping. Though characters sometimes are just more than cardboard (and especially female part is poorly done), your patience will be rewarded.
It is well-known that Sherlock Holmes in "His Last Bow" turns a spy for his country, and says "There's an east wind coming." The meaning of what Holmes says is clear to the comtemporary people, and Childers, a politician, also wrote his book not as an amusement but as a warning to England about the coming threat of Germany, and actually "The Riddles of the Sands" was written about 10 years before WW1 began.Read more ›
Firstly, it is beautifully written. It is a classic piece of prose literature. Long descriptive passages evoke a wonderful atmosphere and sense of place. The characterization is sharp and accurate, and the dialogue is convincing.
Secondly, this is not an action-packed spy thriller. The story unfolds slowly and is somewhat linear, without the shock twists and turns that would be expected from a contemporary spy story. Having said that, you are better reading the book without knowing exactly what the answer to the 'riddle' is. Many of the reviews here on Amazon contain the spoiler and the blurb on the back of the Penguin Red Classics edition has it too. You have been warned.
Next, there is a lot about boats and the sea. If you are any kind of boat enthusiast, you will love this book. If you are not, or are positively averse to the ocean, then you will find the lengthy descriptions of tacking and sounding, reefing and kedging, to be rather wearisome. This is essentially the adventures of two Englishmen in a boat.
The opening chapters are extremely funny at times, as the hero discovers that his yachting holiday isn't going to be quite the luxury excursion he envisaged. The first half of the book is a delightful comedy of manners, but the mood gradually changes as the tension builds.
It is a book of its time - the end of the nineteenth century and the build up to the Great War. As such, it gives remarkable insights into the culture and attitudes of the period. The reference in the first sentence to 'black faces' may bring a few modern readers up short.Read more ›
Whichever view you take, the novel has a depth of characterisation that is quite remarkable for a first attempt at fiction. Davies and Carruthers are representative of the two poles of English class/social structure at the time, with the inarticulate, yet perceptive everyman Davies teaming up with well-mannered and intellectually capable Carruthers, figurative of the way that all aspects of British society would need to come together to face the coming invasion. However, the fact that this was Childers' first and only novel begins to show in his pacing. This is hardly the 'cliff-hanger' that Milt Bearden claims it to be in his brief 5-page introduction. However, Childers' purpose was not to write a thrilling page turner, but a warning against German invasion. To really enjoy this novel, you have to read it in that context, otherwise you'll be thinking 'what's the big deal?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is the all-time favorite nautical book of several Maine boatbuilders interviewed in magazines, so I had to read it. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Pdhmaine
Great book. And if you like the book you will really like the movie with Michael YorkPublished 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great story if you're a sailor. All the locations exist, even today. The main premise is reasonable. The relationships between the characters are slightly difficult to accept.Published 28 days ago by Mark Novak
As in many spy adventures Riddle's characters are simplistic and the plot is strained but its redeeming feature is its powerful descriptions of sailing. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jack Morris
Fantastic book, almost feel like you're there. Hard to believe it was written pre WW I. Takes you right to the scene. Read morePublished 3 months ago by P. Brunhuber
The grandfather of spy stories written in beautiful english at the begining of thd 1900's..Published 4 months ago by tomas Ogorman gurza
It's a book written in 1903 before WW1 about two Brits in a small boat investigating strange activities in the tidal waters of Germany. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Catbird
Like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, this 100+ year old book stands up very well. If you happen to be into sailing small sailboats, this book is a must as it gives a very detailed... Read morePublished 4 months ago by T. L. Spotti
I read it many years ago, and thought I'd like to read it again. However, this particular edition is in a terrible format: huge pages with very small margins. Not worth it.Published 4 months ago by R. I. Louttit