Sailing the Seven Seas

The previously mentioned Peter Duck is the third book in the Swallows and Amazons sequence. I read it in the same place as Swallowdale, although unfortunately this time round British weather was at its worst, and it was a cold wet June week.

I wasn't as charmed by Peter Duck, as I was by the earlier Swallows and Amazons or Swallowdale, although as a children's adventure story it's as good as any. What I find confusing about the Swallows and Amazons series is the difference in the type of story that you get in these books. Part of what I found so charming about the earlier volumes was that although they were adventure stories, you could easily imagine yourself doing these things. They were practical, fun, messing about in boats type adventures. The sort of thing you might get round to doing yourself when you were older, but perhaps not too much wiser. If they were realistic about the practical adventures you could have, they were also realistic about life generally. Life isn't always happy in the world of Swallowdale, there's death and single-parent families struggling to keep the family together; but this realism, for me (certainly as an adult) added to the charm of the books. If these characters can cope with what's being thrown at them, you, dear reader, can too.

But then suddenly in the middle of the sequence things change. In Peter Duck we've moved away from the Lake District initially to Lowestoft, where Captain Flint, the uncle of the Amazons and an imaginary pirate, has bought a sea-going yacht, and is about to take the children on a long expedition. After meeting the elderly seaman, Peter Duck, and being enchanted by his tales of buried treasure on a Caribbean island, the party head off in pursuit of the treasure, closely pursued by a real-life pirate, who is every bit as nasty a character as you could hope to meet on the Spanish Main, Picking up a marooned ship's boy en route the Swallows and Amazons sail into adventure.

There was much to enjoy in this book. Ransome writes well as ever, and especially when writing about sailing is thoroughly enjoyable. Some of the characters (most notably Roger) are rather more well-rounded in this volume, and there are some genuine moments of tension that are thrilling. But somehow the exoticism of the story spoilt the believability for me. I look forward to volume four (Winter holiday) and a return to the Lakes.


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