Jupiter Amidships by S I Martin
|Jupiter Amidships by S I Martin|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: We meet Jupiter again in another piece of intelligent historical fiction from S I Martin. Accurate, interesting, and with a good dollop of humour. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: June 2009|
After some hair-raising adventures in London, Jupiter Williams and his brother Patrick are ready to go home to Sierra Leone. They've got a passage booked on a merchant ship, but before they're on board they're attacked by a press-gang. The vessel they end up on isn't a merchant ship, it's a Royal Navy frigate, the Boneta, and they are prisoners of His Majesty, King George.
Funnily enough, neither of them mind too much - the underlying desire to return home notwithstanding. Patrick is experienced at sea and he loves the life. And Jupiter, with his endless optimism, is convinced he'll make an absolutely marvellous sailor. Things don't always go as planned, however, and the brothers find themselves unjustly punished in the brutal environment, see the horrific injuries sustained in naval battles at first hand, and discover the Turtle, a most peculiar submerged vessel. As black men, they also confront violent prejudice.
In his second outing, Jupiter is as pompous as ever. He's a great character, with good intentions and boundless curiosity and enthusiasm. He's also very funny because he's an atrocious snob. He gets a great deal wrong, but the possibility of his being in error doesn't occur to him until it's too late and he looks a fool. He makes a superb narrator too, as his curiosity allows Martin to fill the book with a great deal of historical detail without ever resorting to dull exposition. His pomposity also allows Martin to approach an approximation of 18th-century diction without putting readers off.
It's super historical fiction - there's a well-paced plot with plenty of adventure and an absolute wealth of detail. Some of the lesser characters really did exist, the descriptions of the navy's organisation are absolutely accurate, and the Turtle actually was the first military submarine. Jupiter is a truly engaging character, flawed but lovable, and he adds real flesh to the dry bones of the early nineteenth-century black experience.
I very much hope we see him again soon.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
Sophisticated readers might also enjoy Octavian Nothing, about a slave in revolutionary America. Corsair by Tim Severin is another enjoyable naval adventure. It's written for adults, but any confident teenager could approach it happily. You might also like to take a look at A Nest of Vipers by Catherine Johnson.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jupiter Amidships by S I Martin at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jupiter Amidships by S I Martin at Amazon.com.
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