The Revenant by Michael Punke, USA, 2002

The Revenant by Michael Punke, USA, 2002

This is the story of Hugh Glass. In 1823 he is a fur trapper, but over the course of the book we learn a little of his past as a ship’s mate, how he was attacked by pirates and his life in an Indian village. His experiences have made him the man he is, and when he is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear he survives when most other men would have died. It is expected that he will die, and it is this expectation that forms the centrepiece of the novel. Though dreadfully wounded, Glass makes his way through the wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains with only one goal: to seek revenge on the two men who abandoned him.

I came to Michael Punke’s book after seeing the film by the same name. The film is memorable for its astounding visual impact with awesome landscapes replacing each other without barely a pause for breath. The book, however, is much better than the film (which is often the case) – not only is there more background, but the story itself is different, and the quotation at the beginning of the book gives the book the meaning that Punke most probably had in mind : Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Rom. 12:19)

Although based on fact, Punke describes his book as a work of fiction. Hugh Glass did exist and he was savaged by a bear and he was abandoned by his mates, but parts of the story, especially those parts concerning other characters, have been lost. My understanding is that, as far as possible, Punke has kept to the accepted storyline, while embroidering it with a few fictional characters and events.

It is a roller-coaster ride as Glass hurtles from one impossible situation to the next, and everything, including the amazing landscape, is described with skill and a sense of having been there. I definitely recommend this book more especially if you have already seen the film and enjoyed it.

(Photo of Michael Punke from Wikimedia)

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