Years ago I read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and was captivated by the vivid portrayal of life on a British warship. In The Sailing Master-Coming of Age I found that same vivid portrayal and was once again transported to an age when nations relied on their navies for protection and for exploration. The author gives a wonderful account of what it took to man and sail a warship, often in chaotic conditions. While O’Brian focused on the doings of and the relationship between the captain and his surgeon/spy, the focus here is on the crew; especially the young boys who live a rough existence doing the bidding of officers and crew. The protagonist, Owen Harriet, is taken on as cabin boy for his uncle, the captain of the frigate Eleanor. It’s a tough learning curve for a 12 year old when he finds himself alone and fearful. However, his innate intelligence is put to use as he is tutored by Eleanor’s sailing master, and in a nice twist he gets involved in espionage with a mysterious diplomatic passenger. The author, by his descriptive abilities, makes the reader feel the roll of the ship in heavy seas, entertains the reader with the conversational patois of the crew, and shows the reader the best and the worst qualities of the men on Eleanor. I really enjoyed this book, a tale of many layers, and not just a few surprises. 5 stars
2017 Winner 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading
A brief synopsis of the tale:
Kidnapped in France and brought to America as an indentured servant, a young woman takes on the brutal merchant king of New York’s East River waterfront…
Illness suddenly deprives 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her older brother Jacob of a mother. Before Sarah has come to terms with that loss, her merchant father grows frail and increasingly desperate in the face of impending bankruptcy. On the rainy night their father scours the docks of Bordeaux, France, to make his final bid to save his family, his children are kidnapped and forced onto a ship bound for New York City where they’ll be separated and sold to the highest bidder as indentured labor.
Purchased by a grotesque merchant whose wealth, backed by a team of henchmen, allows him to dominate the chaotic East River docks, Sarah strikes back the only way she can. Vowing to never allow him to put his hands on her again, she presses a knife to his fat neck. She demands her freedom, a roof over her head and the means to start a business. Her leverage? Knowledge obtained on the voyage that would bring the big man to his knees forever. He yields to her demands but privately swears to become her worst nightmare.
I’ve been studying American history for near 60 years. Granted that most of what I was taught in school was rote dates, events and people, not a deep look into the causes of those events or what it was actually like to live during those events. That’s why I love well researched historical-fiction. A good author can transport the reader into those lives; the conditions they live in; their hopes and fears. I was transported in That Woman to a time, and place that I know a bit about having published a novel that covers The French & Indian War – an event that takes place almost immediately after the conclusion to That Woman – and was able still to come away with fresh insights as to colonial life in New York during the mid 18th century. I also came away with the thought that the characters were written superbly – they belong in that time and place. The tale moves along at a brisk pace as Sarah seeks to recover from the ordeals she has suffered. The plot, set against the backdrop of the mercantile world of the busiest port in the colonies, has many elements and a few nice twists making That Woman a compelling read and a look at some history that is often ignored. 4.3 Stars
Award-winning author Wayne Clark was born in 1946 in Ottawa, Ont., but has called Montreal home since 1968. Woven through that time frame in no particular order have been interludes in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Germany, Holland and Mexico.
By far the biggest slice in a pie chart of his career would be labelled journalism, including newspapers and magazines, as a reporter, editor and freelance writer. The other, smaller slices of the pie would also represent words in one form or another, in advertising as a copywriter and as a freelance translator. However, unquantifiable in a pie chart would be the slivers and shreds of time stolen over the years to write fiction.
The life of a pirate is a hazardous one, fraught with many dangers. How much more so when you are sailing with a captain who is a bit maniacal. Spider John Rush and his best mate Ezra join the crew of Plymouth Dream and find themselves at odds with many of their shipmates, a situation that thrusts Spider John into a mystery to be solved and revenge to be meted out. The tale is engaging and certainly exciting. Life aboard a pirate vessel is presented in fine detail; the characters are believable; the plot lines are nicely filled with surprises. All in all it is a page turning read that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats as mysteries are unraveled as Spider John seeks answers and revenge. 4.2 stars