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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Old Salt Blog review of A Love of Adventure

Many of the classics of nautical literature are stories of young men who set off to sea, often compelled, in equal parts, by necessity and a longing for adventure. Joan Druett’s “A Love of Adventure” is just such a tale, with an important twist or two. Her young hero, Abigail Pandora Sherman, is a heroine and has no need to run off to sea, as she was born and largely raised aboard her father’s merchant brig, with which she shares her middle name.

A Love of Adventure” is a wonderfully written and highly entertaining novel, carrying the reader from New Zealand to New Bedford and back again, by way of Panama and the wilder coasts of South America. It is a rousing adventure and coming of age story that also includes elements of mystery and intrigue.
Not quite 16 year old, Abigail Sherman fully expects to follow her late mother’s example – to marry a ship’s captain and sail with him aboard ship. It is not to be, however. Problems with her father’s business ventures in New Zealand and a concern that since her mother died, Abigail has not learned the manners of a “proper lady,” find her shipped off to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Later when she learns of her father’s murder, she knows she must return to claim what is left of her birthright, including and perhaps especially the brig on which she was born and raised.

Abigail’s struggle to find her place in the world in the face of her relatives who know what is “best” for her, feels both historically appropriate and yet still quite modern. Druett cannily makes Martha Cady, the niece of womens’ right activist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a next neighbor to one of Abigail’s New Bedford neighbors. Cady is an interesting character in her own right and also reminds the reader that the issue of womens’ right did not start with Betty Friedan.

The real action of the novel takes place on the whaling ships captained by Abigail’s uncle, cousin and the handsome Seth Morgan. The scenes of the ships at sea, battling storms, as well as the officers and crews in primal battle with whales, are vivid and engrossing. There are also murders, near mutiny, brawling and debauchery, overlaid by intrigue, riddles and deception.

Engaging, beautifully written and simply fun, “A Love of Adventure” is a delight. Highly recommended.

Joan Druett is a New Zealand historian and novelist, specialising in maritime history. Her recent book, Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator, was general non-fiction winner in the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards. For prior work, she has also been awarded the Hubert Church Award, the PEN Award for Best First Book of Prose, a Fulbright Award, PEN Award for Best First Book of Prose, the John Lyman Award for Best Book of American Maritime History, the New York Public Library’s 25 Best Books to Remember, the L. Byrne Waterman Award for contributions to maritime history and women’s history and has been honored as a John David Stout Fellow.

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