Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Incredible Journey

It did not escape my attention that I started Sheila Burnford's Incredible Journey at the same time as I started my own incredible journey to Paris. Quite appropriate timing really. I loved both journeys. All right noone loves 24 hours in Economy, but it still gets you there in the end. And sometimes you have something great to read along the way.

The Incredible Journey is an incredible book about two dogs and a cat going for quite a long journey through the Canadian wilderness. Their owners are overseas on sabbatical and the three pets are being looked after by a friend of the family in his own remote Canadian property. The three set off to walk home, but have to cross difficult terrain, and face more than their share of perils to survive.

The writing is lovely.

They were an elderly couple, James Mackenzie and his wife Nell, living alone now in a big farmhouse which still held the atmosphere of a large, cheerful family living and laughing and growing up in it. 

Beautifully descriptive, Sheila Burnford was clearly someone who knew the personalities of dogs and cats well, and she writes with a gentle humour.

The old dog rose too, stiff-legged, his head low. He walked toward the waiting Labrador, limping slightly and wagging his tail at the cat, who suddenly danced into a patch of sunlight, struck at a drifting leaf, then ran straight at the dogs, swerving at the last moment, and as suddenly sitting down again. 

I'm sure we've all seen a cat with the gallops.
He ate slowly and fastidiously. Two pairs of hypnotised eyes followed every movement of the fork to his mouth; the third pair remained fixed on the chipmunk. 

The reader is left with no doubt as to who the third set of eyes belong to. Each of the animals comes up against peril in one form or another, and yet they overcome. There is drama and anticipation. Even late in the journey, Sheila warns us

Ahead of them lay the last fifty miles of the journey. It was as well that they had been fed and rested. Most of the way now lay through the Strellon Game Reserve, country that was more desolate and rugged than anything they had yet encountered. The nights would be frosty, the going perilous and exhausting; there could be no help expected from any human agency. Worst of all, their leader was already weak and unfit.

Although Sheila Burnford does give us a happy ending, so all our worry is for nought. It's actually quite refreshing to read a dog book where the dog doesn't die!

I didn't know anything of The Incredible Journey before it came up in my 1001 schedule, which is a great shame. I wish I'd known of it 5 years ago when I was still reading aloud to Master Wicker- we both would have loved it. The Incredible Journey would make a perfect read aloud book for primary aged children, or a great read for the competent reader.



Brona said...

I have never heard of this story, but then, as a child I avoided animal stories.

Talking animals bugged me and as you alluded to, most real life animal stories ended up with a dead dog or horse or cat....and I cried too much. In the end mum had to ban me from watching Lassie and Kimba the White Lion too for the same reason!

This does sound delightful though & I will mention it to my 8 yr old niece who loves animal stories.

Louise said...

It's such a beautiful story, the animals don't speak, but they behave in such great ways. It's a very exciting story, I hope your niece enjoys it. I'm sure you would too.