A coming of age story set in Plymouth based on the life of Constance Hopkins, a teenager on the Mayflower. The story is told in the form of entries inA coming of age story set in Plymouth based on the life of Constance Hopkins, a teenager on the Mayflower. The story is told in the form of entries in a fictitious diary, though Constance herself (and the other characters) are all historical figures and many historical incidents and details about life in early Plymouth are woven in to the narrative. Constance (who is an ancestor of my wife, hence my original interest in the story) crossed on the Mayflower with her brother, father, step-mother, step-sister, and a step-brother (Oceanus) born en route. Opening with the arrival of the Mayflower off the coast of New England, the book follows the founding of the colony, the deadly first winter, the meetings with Samoset and Squanto, the first Thanksgiving, and the arrivals of the next few ships, bringing supplies and new settlers (more of the latter than the former). Along the way, we see Constance's growth into womanhood, and her burgeoning romantic entanglements, and we conclude with her marriage, several years after the colony's founding.
Altogether, this was much more engrossing that I expected, and I enjoyed it enough that I might hunt down a copy for ourselves.
More information about Constance Hopkins can be found on Wikipedia....more
Rafael Sabatini was an Italian ex-pat who settled in England near the turn of the century and eventually made a name for himself as a writer of classiRafael Sabatini was an Italian ex-pat who settled in England near the turn of the century and eventually made a name for himself as a writer of classical romances (historical adventures, what we today would call swashbucklers). Most of what I've read of his ranges from good to mediocre, but he has two masterpieces of the form, which are Scaramouche and Captain Blood.
Captain Blood (1922) concerns the life of Peter Blood, a former soldier of fortune who had retired to the English countryside to practice medicine, the trade for which he had been educated. In the aftermath of a failed rebellion by the Duke of Monmouth against King James (in which Blood did not participate), Blood is called upon to treat the wounds of a nobleman who was on the wrong side of the rebellion. While doing so, he is rounded up by the king's soldiers, and is condemned to a life of slavery for giving succor to a rebel. He is sent to Barbados, where he meets both his nemesis--Col Bishop, the harsh plantation owner who purchases him--and the woman whose love he ultimately comes to desire--the Colonel's niece.
The opening act concerns itself with this setup, and with Blood's efforts to lead an escape from his slavery. Blood then begins a career as an uncommissioned privateer, wreaking havoc amongst Spanish colonies and ships throughout the Caribbean. There are several excellent set-pieces during which Blood shows not only his skill as a fighter and captain, but also his wits and quick thinking. The combination of brawn, brain and wit are winning, making Blood a very memorable character. Eventually, of course, circumstances bring Blood and Miss Bishop back together again, and mutual misunderstandings keep them apart for a while in order to draw out the romantic suspense (and provide more opportunities for daring escapes).
A long time favorite (I was introduced to the book by way of Philip José Farmer; Blood is one of the members of his original Wold-Newton family tree), I have read this several times over the years and consider this one of my favorite sea-based swashbucklers. The movie (1935), with Errol Flynn in his screen debut as Blood and Olivia de Haviland as Arabella Bishop, is also recommended, though it leaves out some of the best set pieces in the interests of keeping a manageable running time....more
Every bit as good as Forester's Hornblower books, but very different as well, despite the fact that most of the action takes place on a boat (a riverEvery bit as good as Forester's Hornblower books, but very different as well, despite the fact that most of the action takes place on a boat (a river boat in this case, rather than a ship of the line).
Rose and Charlie are both distinctly drawn characters, and both really far from the norm for adventure story or romance protagonists. Both of the characters are middle aged. Charlie is wonderfully described at one point as a man who wasn't self-analytical enough to realize that most of the troubles in his life could be traced to his efforts to avoid trouble. Rose is a middle aged spinster who has grown into adulthood in the shadow of her brother, and who doesn't realize that she's becoming increasingly emancipated and independent as the story progresses (and who would be horrified if she were to realize it; having grown up in Victorian England).
Thrown together under unusual circumstances, Rose devises a plan she doesn't realize is virtually impossible. Charlie decides to go along in an effort to avoid an argument, since he thinks she'll eventually realize along the way that what she wants can't be done, and he's the kind of guy who likes kicking decisions down the road. And so they find themselves drifting down a river in central Africa at the dawn of WW I on an impossible journey, driven by Rose's drive and determination and Charlie's know how (and corresponding lack of drive or determination) and find themselves slowly falling in love and being completely surprised by it, both being of an age where they were convinced love had long passed them by.
If you have seen the movie, the book gives a great deal more insight into the thoughts and motivations of the characters, but the movie is a very faithful adaption in most regards, and the two complement each other well. The major change is in the ending, and to be perfectly honest the movie has the more satisfying ending. Though the book's ending is in a sense more realistic and more true to the characters, it is also somewhat more anti-climactic and frustrating....more
Having just read Three Musketeers, this felt a bit short, but it was very quick paced and lively. Jim is a plucky hero; at times too rash (but appearsHaving just read Three Musketeers, this felt a bit short, but it was very quick paced and lively. Jim is a plucky hero; at times too rash (but appears to learn from his mistakes). Long John Silver is a great villain, urbane and sweet talking, but dangerous, with a natural ability to play more than one side of any situation so he always has his options open. A lot of fun; and a great adventure yarn....more
Quite a bit longer than I'd been expecting, but not overtly flowery. Very engaging; well-drawn characters. Not quite as much swash-buckling as I wouldQuite a bit longer than I'd been expecting, but not overtly flowery. Very engaging; well-drawn characters. Not quite as much swash-buckling as I would have expected, but quite a bit more intrigue. Very satisfying....more
It took me a while to get into this. I came to the novel by way of the movie, a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere. And about half way through the booIt took me a while to get into this. I came to the novel by way of the movie, a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere. And about half way through the book, I discovered it was having the same effect on me--it starts slow, but pulls you in gradually, becoming more and more engrossing.
Set during the Italian unification and its aftermath, the novel concerns itself with Don Fabrizio, the Prince of Salina, an atypically intellectual and self-reflective noble of one of Sicily's old families. The war itself is always a background element, never a foreground--this is not an action oriented story. The war merely serves as a catalyst--it marks the beginning of the rise of the bourgeois, and the subsequent decline of the nobility.
Given his nature, Don Fabrizio, unlike the majority of his family and peers, recognizes early on the implications of these changes. Entering middle age as the novel begins, he muses about not only his own personal decline, as he leaves his youth behind him, but also about the general future decline of his family, their fortunes, and his way of life.
Perhaps the only other character as perceptive as the Prince about current events is his nearly penniless nephew, Tancredi, who the Prince seems to love perhaps more than his own children, none of whom the Prince seems to believe (correctly, as it turns out) strong enough to carry the family name through the coming changes. Tancredi is young enough to fully engage in the rebellions and politics of the day, and he and the Prince have the foresight to arrange an advantageous match between Tancredi and the daughter of a newly wealthy landowner in the Prince's domain. The forced interactions between the Prince and Angelica's low born father are always discomforting to the Prince, who sees the future in this wealthy, weasely little man who is already wealthier than the Prince himself but lacks taste and breeding.
On the whole, this is a novel of melancholy reflection. It is about the passing of a way of life, about the passing of a great man who is leaving behind less than he was given, a man who sees change on the horizon but can't see enough change in himself to meet it. It is a novel of middle age. It is novel of a man who knows his place in the world, and who knows that that place is fading, but knows himself to well to think he could change who he is. It is a story of a man who is slowly, gracefully, making way for the new....more
Even though there's something a bit formulaic about the books, they're still vastly entertaining reads, mostly due to Jackie's irrepressible nature. OEven though there's something a bit formulaic about the books, they're still vastly entertaining reads, mostly due to Jackie's irrepressible nature. Outrageous coincidences abound, as we run into old friends and enemies everywhere, but it's carried off with such aplomb we don't care. Reminds me a bit of a '30s or '40s adventure serial. Recommended, but of course you should start from the beginning....more
I've been making my way through my set of Sterling Unabridged Classics, which I enjoy partly because of their great production values. This initiallyI've been making my way through my set of Sterling Unabridged Classics, which I enjoy partly because of their great production values. This initially seemed like a good follow up to Swiss Family Robinson, but now, having read them both, I realize they don't really warrant comparison. Gulliver is a satire in the form of a travelogue. I was again caught a bit off guard by the underdeveloped "plot"; Gulliver makes four voyages and each results in his getting shipwrecked or otherwise castaway in a fantastic land. Each section wastes little time in getting him to his fantastic destination, but the majority of each section is taken up with descriptions of the inhabitants and their ways of life, which inevitably turn out to be satires mocking (with straight face) the British and Europeans who were the target audience. Some of the satire is very specific (as evidenced by a few footnotes in my copy), while other bits are very broad. I suspect I missed a lot of the satire, but there was plenty to catch, so it kept my attention throughout....more
A very curious book. Virtually no character development, and very little dramatic action, and yet it remains oddly compelling throughout. An odd mixtuA very curious book. Virtually no character development, and very little dramatic action, and yet it remains oddly compelling throughout. An odd mixture of a naturalist's handbook and a scout's handbook, combined into a castaway DIY adventure. Even though it's totally unbelievable, it's nonetheless interesting seeing what new flora or fauna they're going to discover next, and how they'll turn it to their advantage....more