Monday, October 12, 2009

Richard Bolitho: Midshipman - Alexander Kent

"On this particular day in mid-October 1772, Richard Bolitho sat wedged in a corner of one of the long rooms half listening to the babble of voices around him, the clatter of plates and tankards and the hiss of rain against the small windows. The air was heavy with mixed aromas. Food and ale, tobacco and tar, and each time the doors opened to a chorus of curses and complaints the keener tang of salt from the waiting ships."

The year is 1772 and Richard Bolitho is a young midshipman newly assigned to the Gorgon, a seventy-four gunner under orders to sail to Africa's west coast to patrol the area. Britian is at peace but her trade routes are under current threat by pirates. What they encounter involves abandoned ships, an occupied fortress and a chase. While navigating his way through the politics of life aboard ship, Bolitho must avoid the ire of Lieutenant Tregorren who has taken an instant dislike to the young man.

This book is a quick read and Kent is able to combine the historical facts of the time with nautical knowledge and good old-fashioned story-telling. This isn't always the case with historical naval fiction. Some authors get bogged down in the details. See my "Master and Commander" review for more information.

Not only is the book entertaining, the writing is also wonderful. "The smells too seemed to rise to meet them. Salt beef and tar, bilge and packed humanity, while all around them the massive hull creaked and groaned like a living thing, the deckhand lanterns spiralling and throwing shapes across the great timbers and seaman alike, as in a vast painting."

My only complaint is the shortness of the book. At only 159 pages it serves as little better than an introduction to a book rather than a full story. But if you like historical naval fiction then I would defitely recommend this series.

Follow Richard in his next naval adventure in Stand into Danger.


celi.a said...

Love the descriptions of the smell of shipboard life. I can almost sense it myself...

Brenton said...

As a new boat owner (I'm new, not the boat), I have been looking around for good naval fiction. This looks perfect.