Are you between 5 and 25? If so, enter the Wicked Young Writer Awards NOW - click here for details...

books of the month
Search our site
Last Letter from Istanbul by Lucy Foley Read the opening extract of the brand new Lucy Foley book before its publication on 19/03/2018

The Island of Sheep by John Buchan

The Island of Sheep

Thriller / Suspense   Action Adventure / Spy   Historical Fiction   eBook Favourites   
Download an extract Discuss on Facebook Discuss this book on our Crime/Mystery/Thriller Facebook group Share this book

Lovereading view...

This is the fifth and last Richard Hannay novel but was written and published a decade after the fourth Hannay adventure The Three Hostages just a year or two prior to the start of World War Two. It is often considered to be the forgotten Richard Hannay novel. It features many of the regular characters from the other Hannay novels but here Hannay is rather more passive than in previous novels in which he features. There are some stunning descriptive passages about country life, landsape and place and thankfully although written against the backdrop of The Great Depression and the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, it is an optimistic book and a call to arms that even the most ordinary of men feel they can make a difference. There are scenes of great adventure throughout the book but there isn't a pervading sense of threat in quite the way previous Hannay books had.

From the Introduction by Andrew Lownie in The Island of Sheep:

Increasingly critics have become aware of the depth and complexity of Buchan’s writing and the hidden subtexts, literary, geographical and historical, and Classical references which here range from Homer, Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning to episodes in African history and the Norse Sagas. A strong influence on the book was Robert Louis Stevenson. Buchan’s thrillers had hitherto not featured children as central characters but The Island of Sheep, especially the last part, is dominated by the adventures of Peter John and Anna, placing the book very much in the tradition of Treasure Island and Kidnapped. Buchan had just finished writing a biography of Walter Scott (1932) and The Island of Sheep is replete with Scott references. This is not coincidental. One of the themes of the book, the recovery of an ancestral Northern culture, that fascinated Buchan the politician as well as the writer had also been an important inspiration for Scott and was currently being mobilised by the Nazis. There is also a conscious borrowing as a literary conceit from Joseph Conrad. Just as there are similarities between Courts of the Morning and Nostromo (1904) – San Tome is the name of the mine in both books – The Island of Sheep reaccentuates motifs from Conrad’s Victory (1915).

The Island of Sheep is one of Buchan’s least known books, but, with its various layers of meaning, excellent descriptive writing and several wonderful set pieces of action, it is a book well worth reading after the early Hannay adventures. As The Times Literary Supplement wrote in its review:

If we sometimes feel that John Buchan brings gifts of too high an order to the adornment of stories of mere plot and counterplot, it is his own generosity that prompts the criticism. He is so evidently very much more than a yarnspinner; and yet as a yarn-spinner so complete a master.


The Island of Sheep by John Buchan

A long-forgotten promise made by Richard Hannay finds him honour-bound to resolve a violent vendetta in which the lives of a young father and his daughter are in danger from unscrupulous and desperate men. Hannay sets out on a high-octane chase from the rural tranquillity of his English manor to the Scottish Borders and, ultimately, to Scandinavia. On the remote Island of Sheep, a final confrontation takes place and everything is decided - once and for all. This, the last of the Hannay adventures - and the last of Buchan's novels to be published during his lifetime - is a rare gem of high drama interwoven with Buchan's personal beliefs about the problems of a post-war world.


'Buchan was a major influence on my work'

About the Author

John Buchan

John Buchan led a truly extraordinary life: he was a diplomat, soldier, barrister, journalist, historian, politician, publisher, poet and novelist. He was born in Perth in 1875, the eldest son of a Free Church of Scotland minister, and educated at Hutcheson’s Grammar School in Glasgow. He graduated from Glasgow University then took a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford. During his time there – ‘spent peacefully in an enclave like a monastery’ – he wrote two historical novels.

In 1901 he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and a private secretary to the High Commissioner for South Africa. In 1907 he married Susan Charlotte Grosvenor; they had three sons and a daughter. After spells as a war correspondent, Lloyd George’s Director of Information and a Conservative MP, Buchan – now Sir John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield - moved to Canada in 1935 where he had been appointed Governor-General.

Despite poor health throughout his life, Buchan’s literary output was remarkable – thirty novels, over sixty non-fiction books, including biographies of Sir Walter Scott and Oliver Cromwell, and seven collections of short stories. In 1928 he won the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Britain’s oldest literary prize for his biography of the Marquis of Montrose. Buchan’s distinctive thrillers – ‘shockers’ as he called them – were characterised by suspenseful atmosphere, conspiracy theories and romantic heroes, notably Richard Hannay (based on the real-life military spy William Ironside) and Sir Edward Leithen. Buchan was a favourite writer of Alfred Hitchcock, whose screen adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps was phenomenally successful.

John Buchan served as Governor-General of Canada until his death in 1940, the year his autobiography Memory Hold-the-door was published. His last novel Sick Heart River was published posthumously in 1941.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading similar books...
Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

29th June 2010


John Buchan

More books by John Buchan
Author 'Like for Like'

Author's Website

Author's Facebook Latest

Loading facebook updates...
Loading twitter updates...


Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General




Thriller / Suspense
Action Adventure / Spy
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites



I love Lovereading for the wonderful like for like author recommendations and for highlighting new books, it's a great resource for readers!


Discover new authors and enjoy old favourites; oodles of literary gems to uncover at Lovereading with candid reviews from real reviewers.

Emily Wright

Its jam packed with fantastic titles, informative descriptions & fantastic reviews and has a vast array of great features & competitions.

Linda Rollins

The best new books on the market, reviewed honestly, to give your readers the best choices.

Julie Cook

If you LOVE reading then you will love LOVEREADING! It's a 'novel' idea. Seriously though I could not recommend them enough.

Rebecca Whymark

I love that Lovereading handpicks very special debut reads.

Magda North

Lovereading is a world of books. It has everything you need from new to old and much loved classic books. It even give you recommendations!

Kate Thurston

Lovereading helps me decide what real people read.

Kerry Bridges