Review Blog

May 01 2013

To brave the seas by David McRobbie

cover image

Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2013. ISBN 9781743313077.
(Age: 12-15) Recommended. Adam Chisholm has grown up near Liverpool, the busiest seaport in 1940's Britain, so it is no wonder that ships have always been his passion. With his country at war, it is also no wonder that 15 year old Adam chooses to sign up for the Merchant Navy, to do his part for the war effort, especially given that his beloved mother has recently died.
And so the story of Adam's sea adventures begins. Over the next few months Adam will sail on an Atlantic convoy, face seasickness and shipwreck, help to salvage a ship and take part in the destruction of a submarine. As the ship's 'Peggy' he will learn how to keep a mess tidy and how to ferry meals across a slippery deck to satisfy the hunger of his fellow sailors. He will also discover a whole new vocabulary of shipping terms, which he must learn, if he is to obey the orders he is given on board.
Whilst Adam is a remarkably resilient lad and a faithful recorder of events, he is inclined to tell his tale in a rather matter of fact manner. So whilst there is plenty of action, there is a surprising lack of drama or emotion in this story, despite the wartime setting. However, what does come through quite strongly is the sense of mateship that develops between the sailors during their sea voyages; the camaraderie and humour that they use to relieve the stress and tension of being at war.
Teenage boys are sure to find this book entertaining and quite an eye opener. It certainly gives an intriguing insight into ships and seafaring as well as life in Britain under the duress of war. The inclusion of muted images at the start of each chapter (including maps and posters of the era) and a glossary of ship terms at the end, also help to suggest the veracity of the novel.
All in all, an entertaining, if not a compelling, read.
Deborah Marshall

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