HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Ring Of Bright Water
Author: Gavin Maxwell
Publisher: Penguin, Trilogy edition in 2001
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Maxwell, Gavin. Ring Of Bright Water (first published in 1960; republished in 1965 by Dutton Paperbacks, an imprint of E. P. Dutton and Co., New York City, NY).. It is the 1950s and Gavin Maxwell goes to live in an abandoned house at a remote beach on the west coast of Scotland near Glenelg. He named his home, a haven for wildlife, Camusfearna and settled there with a smooth-coated otter named Mijbil which he had picked up while in Iraq. He first took the otter to the London Zoological Society, where it was decided that this was a previously unknown subspecies, and it was named after him, Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli (or colloquially, “Maxwell’s otter”). After Mij was killed, he was replaced by Edal, an otter from Africa. Ring of Bright Water chronicles Maxwell’s first ten years with the otters, brilliantly evoking life with these playful animals in this natural paradise.
Some years ago, we saw the fictionalized film of the same name which was based on this book and released in 1969. The movie tells a rather straightforward story, but Maxwell’s writing contains some long, highly descriptive passages which will require the reader’s patience and concentration. A couple of references to evolution over “millions of years” are found, a few terms like “in God’s name” and “for Christ’s sake” are used, and there are some instances of tobacco usage mentioned. However, those who like reading true accounts of nature studies and animal life should enjoy the book. First published in 1960, this classic account of man and wildlife became a best seller, inspired a generation of naturalists, and is considered a literary masterpiece, as one of the most popular wildlife books ever written eventually selling over two million copies worldwide.
Two further volumes followed bringing the story full circle telling of the difficult last years and the final abandonment of the settlement. The Rocks Remain (1963) and Raven Seek Thy Brother (1968) were less idyllic than the first, chronicling accidents and misfortunes involving both the otters and Maxwell’s life. All three books were republished as Ring of Bright Water Trilogy in 2011 by Nonpareil Books. The trilogy does not include the full text of the latter two volumes, but removes the tangential travel sections which take place outside Scotland.