Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: Treasure Trove of the Southern Seas

I wanted to like this book.

It was, after all, about plucky British lads sailing of to the southern seas in search of buried treasure. And it was one of my mum's books when she was young, as it was for her father, my grandfather. It even has a picture inside that he drew of someone that might be my great-grandfather.

What's more it starts with the line "I say, that's pretty ripping, isn't it?" which makes it clear we're in the age when men's upper lip are a stiff as their starched collars.

And yet its awful - not just badly written but dated in the worst possible way. I found myself embarrassed to be seen with it on the train for the daily commute to and from the office. I'd have to stop and put it away to continue only when in the privacy of my own living room.

Ridden with blatant, transparent race and class prejudice, it is all too clear why this book is no longer available even on the mighty Amazon's web site. The language used by its author Captain Frank H. Shaw is simply unacceptable today - as it really should have been then and indeed at any time.

There isn't much worth salvaging, as the story, while full of storms, pirates, sharks, and of course buried treasure, is mechanical join the dots with one dimensional characters. And I have no idea why a sailing story would have a cover picture that would be at home on a murder mystery.

Not all old sailing stories are classics, and this is most definitely one that would be better lost at sea.


Turinas said...

It sounds awful but God I want to read it. Did you ever see The Ripping Yarns series by Michael Palin in the 80s? Reminds ne of that

JP said...

I know what you mean, one of those guilty pleasures. Just make sure you have a brown envelope to hide it in.

Loved ripping yarns, remember getting the books of the scripts.

"Across the Andes by Frog" Brilliant