by Unabridged Chick
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I'm an armchair sailor at best, and rather lackadaisical at that. But thanks to the dreamy Capt. Wentworth of Austen's Persuasion, I created a Nautical Fiction Reading Challenge in the optimistic hope I would do some more sailing this year, so to speak. (I've been a marvelous failure, but there's still half a year to go!)
Should you be interested in a sea voyage of your own (from the safety of your bed, chair, couch, or chaise), here's a list of nautical-ish books that should entertain and keep you from getting a delicate shade of green. (Having been sea sick once, it's not an experience I'd encourage!)
Let's start our voyage with a young adult classic I still adore as an adult. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi:
Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
This delicious, delightful novel has an excellent heroine, a nefarious captain, some seasickness (sorry!), righteous indignation, and a wonderful conclusion, not to mention pretty unsavory details about what life on a transatlantic sea voyage would be like.
If young adult is not your thing, but scary monsters of the human and non-human kind are, how about The Terror by Dan Simmons:
The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape.
This monster-sized novel has awesome historical detail and an seriously creepy, chilly feel to it. In the spirit of full disclosure I hated the last one hundred pages but the rest of it was so good, I still recommend it to everyone I know.
Still, maybe you want despicable, but not supernatural, with a little history. I recommend the classic Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter:
The story takes place in the summer of 1931, on board a cruise ship bound for Germany. Passengers include a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests. This ship of fools is a crucible of intense experience, out of which everyone emerges forever changed
Vivien Leigh and Simone Signoret starred in the 1965 film version so you know there's some gorgeous heroines and fantastic jewelery. You've also got seasickness, glamor, and the ugly underbelly of privilege and power.
If you want even uglier, perhaps John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins:
Charlotte Lewes, a young Briton newly widowed by the Great War, departs for colonial Burma in 1917 to escape the ruins of her life. She meets John Dollar, a sailor who becomes her passionate love and whose ill-fated destiny inextricably binds her to him. On a festive seafaring expedition, an earthquake and ensuing tidal wave strikes. Swept overboard, Charlotte, John Dollar, and Charlotte's pupils awaken on a remote island beach. As they struggle to stay alive, their dependence on John overwhelms him, and an atmosphere of menace and doom builds, culminating in shocking and riveting scenes of both death and survival.
This novel has been described as a female take on Lord of the Flies, and it's pretty twisted. I loathed this novel because it was a bit too dark, weird, and Lord of the Flies-y for me, but I'm sure for others, this will entertain.
After all this doom, gloom, and disaster, you might need something lighter, so how about we return to the man of the hour, Capt. Frederick Wentworth? Then I recommend None But You by Susan Kaye:
Eight years ago, when he had nothing but his future to offer, Frederick Wentworth fell in love with Anne Elliot, the gentle daughter of a haughty, supercilious baronet. Persuaded by those nearest to her, Anne had given him up and he had taken his broken heart to sea. When Jane Austen's Persuasion opens in the year 1814, Frederick Wentworth, now a famous and wealthy captain in His Majesty's Navy, finds himself back in England and, as fate would have it, residing as a guest in Anne's former home. For eight long years, Frederick had steeled his heart against her. Should he allow Anne into his heart again, or should he look for love with younger, prettier woman in the neighbourhood who regard him as a hero?
This delicious novel (the first in a trilogy), made my top ten of 2010 and is one I still think of when I'm in need of something romantic and awesome. Those who've read and love Persuasion will enjoy but I think anyone who hasn't -- but wants a really lovely Regency novel -- will like it as well!
I hope you've enjoyed my cruise -- this hardly scratches the surface of the fabulous nautical-themed fiction out there (my To-Be-Read list for that is enormous) but hopefully gives you a place to start your voyage. If you've read any of these, I'd love to know what you think, and I definitely want your recommendations for other nautical books I ought to read!
Guest post created for captain wentworth's boating party event by Audra of Unabridged Chick
© 2011. All rights reserved.
by Unabridged Chick
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* image source from cover of Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise