Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peter Simple

by Frederick Marryat

Young Peter Simple has been told he lives up to his surname, and when he joins Nelson’s Navy (it being the custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the prosperity and naval superiority of the country”), he certainly fits the role; He’s a naïve boy of fourteen when he boards the H.M.S. Diomede, still prone to tears, sure to believe any lie he is told, and ripe for tormenting. But he learns—albeit slowly—and is quickly off having adventures, both daring and embarrassing, with his friend and fellow officer O’Brien. At first I found Peter to be almost pathetic, but he grows on you, as do the rest of the characters. Peter’s ship and acquaintances are filled with some rather eccentric characters, such as the captain who swears every lie he tells (which is many) is the truth, the carpenter who believes the history of the world repeats itself every 27,672 years, and more.

Overall, this book was good; some parts were funny, others sad, the long seafaring stories told by the crew were broken up into two or more chapters so you didn’t get bored, and the ending was satisfactory. I look forward to reading more by the same author. Also, the version I read had helpful footnotes and explanations of sailing terms, Marryat’s typos, and archaic words and phrases, making the reading experience even better.
One of the coolest things about this book is that the author was actually once Captain Frederick Marryat and served in the Royal Navy during the nineteenth-century, giving the events that take place in the book a deeper credibility.

But so you know, there were a few racial stereotypes throughout the book—especially when Peter’s ship was moored in Barbados—which bothered me slightly, but I reminded myself that it was first published in 1833 and that’s probably what most of
the gentry’s opinions would have been.

Note: I didn’t give this book any age range because I’m not sure who would enjoy it; definitely older teens are more likely to be interested, but it depends on the interest in the subject for any age.

The second book I’ve read (up to the rank of Lieutenant now!) and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge hosted by I Heart Paperbacks. Read others’ reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

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