THE FAR-DISTANT OXUS by Katherine & Pamela Whitlock Hull
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Has there ever been a better way to reach the sea than via The Far-Distant Oxus? Or more agreeable children? Or a more blissful summer? Not even in the novels of Arthur Ransome, to whom this was sent by its adolescent authors in 1937, whereupon he spurred its first publication (in a somewhat longer form). The six children spending their vacation on the moors are the three Hunterlys, staying at Cloud Farm, the two Clevertons, who come out every year, and Maurice. Maurice, the eldest and most accomplished of the capable crew, is the enigma: neither his surname nor his home nor his identity is known to the others--not even, by his insistence, at the close. It's his idea to adopt Sohrab and Rustum as a model (ergo the river Oxus), and he initiates--but doesn't dominate--each enterprise: Peter Cleverton, embryo engineer, designs the hut, Peran-Wisa; and agile Bridget Hunterly hangs the hammocks in the big oak nearby. (A nicety of the story is the way--the youngsters--roughly eight to sixteen--defer to one another.) Together they canter their ponies over the moors, sleep out on a strawstack, whitewash until they're weary, but their triumph is the week's camping trip down the Oxus, two poling the raft laden with supplies, four on the ponies. Each day they change about, and usually the riders forge ahead, but Bridget and her younger sister Jennifer, the last to man the raft, are the first to reach the ocean, at twilight. . . . The book is full of animals, hearty food, hard-fought contests, and exuberance; also, as Bridget foresaw at the start, of ""travel, discovery, adventure,"" all capped by a glorious good-by from Maurice--bonfires echoing theirs on the top of each mountain.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1969
Publisher: Macmillan