Review Blog

Jan 29 2015

Riddle of the Sands (abridged) by Erskine Childers

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Retold by Tony Evans. Ill. by Sarah Wimperis. Real Reads, 2013. ISBN 9781906230685
(Age: Yr 4+) Following Germany's victory over France in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war, the rivalry and lack of trust between Britain and Germany that eventually led to the First World War continued to grow. Britain was particularly concerned as Kaiser Wilhelm II declared that he wanted to make the German Navy as strong and as large as that of Great Britain sparking fears of a German invasion. Many were worried that Britain did not appear to be doing enough to protect it shores, and it is within this atmosphere of distrust and uncertainty that Childers wrote this compelling mystery at the turn of the 20th century.
Foreign Office official Carruthers agrees to spend his holidays aboard a friend's yacht, but rather than being on board some magnificent vessel cruising the seas and enjoying the sunshine, he finds himself on the Dulcibella, a 30-foot yawl navigating the fog and channels of the sandbanks of the islands in the North Sea off the northern coast of Germany. The skipper is intent on mapping all the banks and the passages between them convinced that something is going on and this belief deepens as they get involved with those on board the Medusa another vessel that seems to share their interest in the area. The plot thickens when Clara, the daughter of the owner of the Medusa, abruptly cuts short a social call to the Dulcibella and Carruthers and Davies are determined to find out why.
In this abridged version, available through INT Books, Tony Evans has crafted a solid story from the original that tempts the reader to seek out the original but is also satisfying in itself as a mystery for the young reader. Here is a story that shows that the tensions between the two countries were building long before war was eventually declared and provides a plausible plot that shows that Britain should have had cause for concern and prepared more fully - something a number of writers like Childers did not believe they were doing.
Adding this version to your collection will not only offer students access to what is now considered a classic piece of writing, but it will add depth to your collection about World War I - a collection which is sure to receive extra attention this year, particularly.
Barbara Braxton

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