I was going to say that this novel was just the antidote for The Children of Húrin, but on second thought they have a lot in common. Maclean is a quest story too, and is also about defeat. And it has a Morgoth-like figure of unmotivated evil: Maclean's father. But whereas Tolkien's tragedy reads like the work of the final Victorian medievalist, Donaldson's feels like a small mid-20th-century Canadian novel, like As For Me and My House or, in the case of the war scenes, Generals Die In Bed. It recounts a day in 1943 of a middle-aged First War veteran, following him around a small New Brunswick town as he tries to scrape together enough cash for a birthday present and a bottle of booze and dwells on the chances that shaped his life for the worse. Maclean's wanderings, filled with flashbacks to childhood, the trenches and his unsuccessful return from war, build toward a very 20th-century conclusion about the meaning of existence: that there is none, that for nearly everyone life is a kind of war. Reading Maclean puts The Children of Húrin with its elaborate heirarchy of powers and headstrong nobilities in a different light, as the sort of thing an officer would write.