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The Blanket of the Dark; A Classic Historical Fiction (Annotated)

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Buchan skillfully weaves the story of young clerk Peter Pentecost, who has a claim to the throne, and a tale of intrigue against King Henry VIII, where 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all are nameless'. Buchan's description of the ruthless king is compelling. His knowledge of the time of Henry's reign and his love of the Oxfordshire countryside are app Buchan skillfully weaves the story of young clerk Peter Pentecost, who has a claim to the throne, and a tale of intrigue against King Henry VIII, where 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all are nameless'. Buchan's description of the ruthless king is compelling. His knowledge of the time of Henry's reign and his love of the Oxfordshire countryside are apparent.


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Buchan skillfully weaves the story of young clerk Peter Pentecost, who has a claim to the throne, and a tale of intrigue against King Henry VIII, where 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all are nameless'. Buchan's description of the ruthless king is compelling. His knowledge of the time of Henry's reign and his love of the Oxfordshire countryside are app Buchan skillfully weaves the story of young clerk Peter Pentecost, who has a claim to the throne, and a tale of intrigue against King Henry VIII, where 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all are nameless'. Buchan's description of the ruthless king is compelling. His knowledge of the time of Henry's reign and his love of the Oxfordshire countryside are apparent.

30 review for The Blanket of the Dark; A Classic Historical Fiction (Annotated)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    When Peter Pentecost learns about his true heritage it opens up a world of possibilities far removed from the life he’d imagined as a lowly clerk. Soon he’s being tutored in swordmanship, archery and other pursuits applicable to his new station in life, although his true identity must remain secret. He also meets noblewoman, Sabine Beauforest. In Sabine, Buchan creates a female character quite different from the rather colourless specimens that often inhabit his books. (The exception being the pl When Peter Pentecost learns about his true heritage it opens up a world of possibilities far removed from the life he’d imagined as a lowly clerk. Soon he’s being tutored in swordmanship, archery and other pursuits applicable to his new station in life, although his true identity must remain secret. He also meets noblewoman, Sabine Beauforest. In Sabine, Buchan creates a female character quite different from the rather colourless specimens that often inhabit his books. (The exception being the plucky Mary Lamington, first introduced in Mr. Standfast.) Although Sabine’s first appearance is as a ‘nymph-like’ creature, later descriptions emphasise her voluptuous figure and there are hints of real sexual attraction between her and Peter Pentecost. She also becomes a kind of talisman for him although it’s not long before he finds he has a rival for her affections. Peter also encounters Solomon Darking who introduces him to the lore of the countryside and reveals to him a whole other side of society, invisible to those in positions of power, with its own system of communication and intelligence gathering. The Blanket of the Dark showcases John Buchan’s knowledge of and appreciation for the Cotswold countryside. His beloved Elsfield, the manor house that became his country home, even gets a mention. ‘The opposite slope of the hill towards Elsfield was golden in the afternoon sunlight, and mottled with shadows of a few summer clouds.’ The book features imagined and real-life characters. The most memorable example of the latter is Peter’s first sighting of Henry VIII leading his hunting party through the Woodstock estate. ‘He was plainly dressed, with trunk hose of brown leather and a green doublet with a jewel at his throat… The face was vast and red as a new ham, a sheer mountain of a face, for it was as broad as it was long, and the small features seemed to give it a profile like an egg.’ There are some dramatic scenes, notably one during a violent snowstorm and another when a dam bursts, the latter resulting in a fateful encounter. In fact, the elements play a key role in the book with rain, snow or fine weather often determining the outcome of an enterprise. Weather lore, as possessed by Solomon Darking and his vagabond comrades, becomes a valuable weapon. However, in spite of best laid plans, Peter finds himself becoming the pursued rather than the pursuer as the book reaches its conclusion. From the beginning, Peter fears ‘a destiny too big for him’ and that he is merely ‘a weapon to be used’. As time goes by, the things he sees and experiences cause him to doubt the rightfulness of the venture he is being asked to undertake and the motives of those behind it. ‘They claimed to stand for the elder England and its rights, and the old Church, but at their heart they stood only for themselves.’ I can now appreciate why The Blanket of the Dark is so highly regarded amongst Buchan’s works, including by his latest biographer, Ursula Buchan, who is also his granddaughter. The Blanket of the Dark is the book Ursula always recommends to readers who wish to venture beyond his spy novels. Far be it from me to disagree.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Beautifully written. Every time I pick this book up I am taken up and drawn in...... I wish I had read it in less anxious environmental and political times when I would have loved this historical fiction set during the time of Henry VIII. However I'm having trouble reading fiction at all at the moment. So at the moment I am oversensitive and I keep getting pulled up by John Buchan's nonsensical notions. The book description has the quote 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all a Beautifully written. Every time I pick this book up I am taken up and drawn in...... I wish I had read it in less anxious environmental and political times when I would have loved this historical fiction set during the time of Henry VIII. However I'm having trouble reading fiction at all at the moment. So at the moment I am oversensitive and I keep getting pulled up by John Buchan's nonsensical notions. The book description has the quote 'under the blanket of the dark all men are alike and all are nameless' - but actually they are not alike - the blood of some of them comes from 'noble' lines (of violence, greed and butchery[ed]) and in Buchan's head that matters.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda Humberstone

    What can I say about this book which reminded me of many I read as a child. I thought I would give up early but didn't as I began to appreciate the excellent way in which it was written, albeit perhaps rather 'old fashioned' for some. The descriptions of the countryside and how the common people understood it was outstanding. It also brought home how travelling from A to B and even ones very survival was dependant on that knowledge and most importantly how the state of the weather affected every What can I say about this book which reminded me of many I read as a child. I thought I would give up early but didn't as I began to appreciate the excellent way in which it was written, albeit perhaps rather 'old fashioned' for some. The descriptions of the countryside and how the common people understood it was outstanding. It also brought home how travelling from A to B and even ones very survival was dependant on that knowledge and most importantly how the state of the weather affected everything. Although I guessed the ending it was rather a good tale portraying what it was like for highborn and lowborn to live in Tudor England while Cromwell and Henry V111 were throwing their weight around causing the unsuccessful rebellion the 'Pilgrimage of Grace'.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jönathan

    Pleasantly surprised. John Buchan's historical novel is far superior to his jingoistic WW1 spy fiction. There's still plenty of action, but there's far deeper philosophy behind it. Pleasantly surprised. John Buchan's historical novel is far superior to his jingoistic WW1 spy fiction. There's still plenty of action, but there's far deeper philosophy behind it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kailey (Luminous Libro)

    Reminds me of Sir Walter Scott's writing. Wonderful story! I love it! Reminds me of Sir Walter Scott's writing. Wonderful story! I love it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    John Buchan, The Blanket of the Dark (1931, London) Hodder & Stoughton, publisher Diarmaid MacCulloch tipped me off to this book, in the “Introduction” to his wonderful biography of Thomas Cromwell. Discussing how the name “Cromwell” is likely to have been pronounced in the 16th Century, Professor MacCulloch writes " ...I think that John Buchan was correct in his haunting historical fantasy The Blanket of the Dark (which I commend to the young at heart) in styling him Crummle.” After reading Ma John Buchan, The Blanket of the Dark (1931, London) Hodder & Stoughton, publisher Diarmaid MacCulloch tipped me off to this book, in the “Introduction” to his wonderful biography of Thomas Cromwell. Discussing how the name “Cromwell” is likely to have been pronounced in the 16th Century, Professor MacCulloch writes " ...I think that John Buchan was correct in his haunting historical fantasy The Blanket of the Dark (which I commend to the young at heart) in styling him Crummle.” After reading MacCulloch’s 700-plus page book, I turned to Buchan’s shorter volume. In The Blanket of the Dark, there’s something of Harry Potter’s England or, even closer, Lyra Belaqua’s Oxford in Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America). The novel is set in the 1530s, during the reign of Henry VIII and the ascendancy of his chief counsellor Thomas Cromwell, and it explores the consequences - the what-if hypothetical history - if Henry had been overthrown by a descendant of Edward III. Fans of King Arthur, Harry Potter, Lyra Belaqua, and Paul Atreides of Dune will recognize the pattern of the plot. Peter Pentecost, raised in poverty and educated for a life in the Church, learns he is really the son of a noble family -- indeed, he has a royal lineage strong enough to challenge the King. Adventures ensue. If you can’t find this book at your local library, you can read it for free on Project Gutenberg Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301.... I hope you do!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hepple

    First published in 1931, 'The Blanket of the Dark' is a historical adventure set in Tudor times. Peter Pentecost, a clerk in a medieval abbey near Oxford, learns that he is the true heir to the throne instead of Henry VIII, and finds himself being manipulated by various factions in a bid to overthrow the monarch. The plot contains familiar elements - I was reminded of 'The Free Fishers' by the same author at times, as well Buchan's seemingly favourite theme of the fugitive. The writing style is First published in 1931, 'The Blanket of the Dark' is a historical adventure set in Tudor times. Peter Pentecost, a clerk in a medieval abbey near Oxford, learns that he is the true heir to the throne instead of Henry VIII, and finds himself being manipulated by various factions in a bid to overthrow the monarch. The plot contains familiar elements - I was reminded of 'The Free Fishers' by the same author at times, as well Buchan's seemingly favourite theme of the fugitive. The writing style is very atmospheric and, whilst the main character is not the liveliest, he is certainly more believable in my opinion. Historical fact means that the plot has all the inevitability of a tragedy, but I don't think it suffers as a result - but it does mean that it about as different from the Hannay stories as you could get.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katrin V

    A solid historical Buchan set in the time of Henry viii. Story is less exciting than other Buchans because we know the fictional overthrow of Henry didn’t succeed, but the historical details are good and remarkably relevant today .

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Watson

    A thoroughly enjoyable historical from the extremely talented JB.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Intense atmosphere of England in the early 16th C when the Tudor usurpers (so I say) reigned: Oxford, monasteries, gypsies, hedge-priests, chases, Severn in flood, romance, dreams of glory, and a decision about what it takes to be a king: ruthlessness and love of power. Like most of Buchan's books, I read this every ten years and always enjoy it. Witch Wood, for its love story and the introduction of Montrose, just edges Blanket as my personal favorite; John McNab brings the most joy. Having jus Intense atmosphere of England in the early 16th C when the Tudor usurpers (so I say) reigned: Oxford, monasteries, gypsies, hedge-priests, chases, Severn in flood, romance, dreams of glory, and a decision about what it takes to be a king: ruthlessness and love of power. Like most of Buchan's books, I read this every ten years and always enjoy it. Witch Wood, for its love story and the introduction of Montrose, just edges Blanket as my personal favorite; John McNab brings the most joy. Having just (April 2018) re-read Blanket I declare it Buchan's best novel, though the two mentioned above keep their places unchanged.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Blosfelds

    This book is OK if you like descriptions of traveling around the Oxford area and west country in the 1530s. There are some interesting descriptions of the world of vagrants and beggars of the time but the hero is a bit boring and nothing very much happens. What is good are the descriptions of Henry VIII as seen with the eyes of the common people rather than the image Henry himself wanted to present to the world. He comes over as a pragmatist and an evil genius driven to bring peace and security This book is OK if you like descriptions of traveling around the Oxford area and west country in the 1530s. There are some interesting descriptions of the world of vagrants and beggars of the time but the hero is a bit boring and nothing very much happens. What is good are the descriptions of Henry VIII as seen with the eyes of the common people rather than the image Henry himself wanted to present to the world. He comes over as a pragmatist and an evil genius driven to bring peace and security to England no matter what the cost is to the people he rules.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol Hislop

    It started well, the story seemed promising and I like the title. However, the story became quite rambling and I lost the thread in the middle. The book is written in an old form of English which became quite tiresome. It's a pity because John Buchan is a good storyteller-this isn't one of his best books though. It started well, the story seemed promising and I like the title. However, the story became quite rambling and I lost the thread in the middle. The book is written in an old form of English which became quite tiresome. It's a pity because John Buchan is a good storyteller-this isn't one of his best books though.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Don

    I found this book heavy going. John Buchan has written some classic books which I have loved & that is probably why I read this one but there was little to endear me to this story and the main character, Peter Pentecost was such a grey man that I was grateful to bring this read to a close. Give me Richard Hannay every time!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rog Harrison

    This historical novel set in the time of Henry V111 features a young man whom certain nobles want to be the figurehead of a rebellion. The author again returns to the idea that there is a hidden England.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Busyknitter

    I must have a very low tolerance for the "derring-do in the Greenwood" genre of fiction; one of Buchan's sillier novels. I must have a very low tolerance for the "derring-do in the Greenwood" genre of fiction; one of Buchan's sillier novels.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Very well written

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amicus (David Barnett)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Hall

  20. 4 out of 5

    DOUGLAS THOROGOOD

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gillian Keene

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vikas

  23. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Skinner

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Silbersack

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jay B.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Purdeyblackcat

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Jones

  28. 5 out of 5

    William Danbury

  29. 5 out of 5

    K.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

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