Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Captains Courageous" by Rudyard Kipling

Well, after a lot of vampire and werewolf drama, not to mention the horrid ending to the Twilight series, I felt like I needed a bit of break from my "usual". I decided to go back to the list of classics I've been trying to work my way through (shortest to longest - a girl's gotta have a system!) and this was next up on the list. I wasn't too sure about it, not being any sort of sea-faring kind of gal, but I'm not one to give up easily. I figured it would be a lot like "The Old Man and the Sea", a real guy-kind 0f read.

I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this little book. Granted, it was a bit difficult to read; a lot of the conversation is written in various dialects, which bogged me down a bit. Also, as I previously pointed out, I know pretty much next to nothing about sailing any sort of boat, so a lot of the technical terms were over my head. I suppose I could have looked them up, but the nice thing I found as I read was that even though I might not know specifically what Kipling was talking about, I could still get the general idea, enough to keep reading.

We meet Harvey Cheyne, a spoiled rich kid, and two pages later he's falling overboard, sure to meet his death on the high seas. He would, too, but for the fisherman that rescues him; he brings him back to the We're Here, a small Gloucester fishing boat owned by Disko Troop. There's a cast of characters aboard including Disko's son, Dan, as well as Manuel, the Portuguese fisherman that rescued Harvey, Long Jack, Tom Platt, Uncle Salters (Disko's brother), and Penn, a man who has survived the worst disaster of his life but remembers little of it. There's also a somewhat psychic black cook on board, one who really can seem to predict the future.

Of course, Harvey's never done a real day's work in his life when he lands on the We're Here, but he's taught the ropes (literally and figuratively) by the entire crew, most especially by Dan, the closest to him in age. Harvey tries to tell them about his life back home, but the men don't believe a word of it. Around the middle of the book, as the men sit around telling tall tales while waiting out a storm, Harvey discovers that if he tells stories about a "friend" of his, the men enjoy hearing about his life. And the longer Harvey's on the boat, the more he seems to take to the fisherman's way of life; indeed, he might almost believe his own stories are about another person entirely.

Luckily, when they come back in to shore to unload and sell their haul, Harvey is able to wire his parents on the West Coast and let them know that he's alive. They take their private rail car to Boston to reunite, but both parents are in for a bit a surprise when they meet their son again. The time on the boat has changed young Harvey, for the better of course, and his father couldn't be happier. It's a nice little book wrapped up in a nice little ending. Probably not entirely realistic, but that's OK.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a coming-of-age story, anyone who enjoys the sea, and indeed, anyone who enjoys a good book.

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