Sunday, February 12, 2012

Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling)

Captains Courageous
Rudyard Kipling
Public Domain Books
Fiction, YA? Adventure/General Fiction
* (Terrible)

DESCRIPTION: Young Harvey Cheyne, son of an American business goliath, never knew a day of poverty or hardship in his life. Raised by an overprotective mother and absentee father, his pockets fairly bulging with his overgenerous allowance, he saw his future set before him on a gilded platter. While traveling to Europe for a dose of Continental education, Harvey falls overboard into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A cod-fisher snags him in his dory, bringing him back to the Gloucester schooner "We're Here." Nobody believes his grandiose claims of wealthy (and grateful) parents waiting to receive him. Out here, he's just another body on a vessel with no room for idlers. During the ensuing summer, the spoiled young Harvey learns more about people and life than he has at any of his fancy schools.

REVIEW: An object lesson in how to bore and alienate an audience, Captains Courageous wallows and drifts like a waterlogged dory. The narrative, thick with sailing terms and thin on explanations, hardly cares whether or not the reader is intimately familiar with nautical lore. Likewise, the dialog demonstrates how aggravating it is when an author writes exclusively in near-phonetic dialect; English itself becomes a foreign language when rolling off the tongues of New England sailors. Things appeared to happen, as often as not without significantly affecting Harvey (his growth from spoiled brat to sure-footed sailor boy happens largely by implication), but for the life of me half the time I couldn't figure out what, let alone why I should care. I came closer to giving up on this story than I have in many a moon. Unfortunately, my persistence went unrewarded as I slogged through a boring, overlong ending which only confirmed the racial, ethnic, and social stereotypes that ran rampant through the whole thing. (Normally, I cut older books more slack in this department, but I was disgruntled enough at this point not to bother here.) Despite being a free-for-Kindle public domain download, I nevertheless walked away convinced I'd overpaid.

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