Title: By the Mast Divided
Author: David Donachie
Review: This is my review of the book By the Mast Divided by David Donachie. Having not read any of David’s books before, I was a little apprehensive on reading this as to whether or not I would enjoy it. Especially as I do enjoy reading Patrick O’ Brian’s stories, and from the cover this did seems as if it could have been in a similar vain. But I need not have worried, though they are both nautical and set in a similar time frame they are very different in style and content and both really enjoyable.
The Book is set in London 1793: Young firebrand John Pearce is illegally pressganged from the refuge of the Pelican tavern to a brutal life aboard HMS Brilliant, a frigate on its way to war. In the first few days Pearce discovers the Navy is a world in which he can prosper. But he is not alone; he is drawn to a group of men – fly Charlie Taverner; quiet Ben Walker; tired old Abel Scrivens; the bairn of the group, Rufus Dommet; the droll, tough Irish laborer, Michael O’Hagan; and the bumptious Gherson – pressed men like him, who eventually form an exclusive gun crew, the Pelicans, with Pearce their elected leader. During an action-packed two weeks, as HMS Brilliant chases a French privateer across the English Channel, this disparate group of men form friendships that will last a lifetime.
Initially John tries to escape, but when he finds that this is not possible he forms a friendship with a group of other press ganged landlubbers. They form the gang of Pelican’s and aim to look after themselves, with John as the leader. The narrative is very clever in so much as they are the bottom of the pile as far as the Navy goes and the description of life on board for these men is very realistic giving one real sympathy with them and their plight.So HMS Brilliant goes off to war chasing a French Privateer along the channel. John shines and uses his natural skills to help the situation despite the captain.
I found it an enjoyable book, that brought back past memories of sailing in the channel – not chasing after a Privateer, but fighting against the wind and the waves. This is the first book in a series and I will be looking forward to reading the next, to see what happens to John. Though I somehow doubt that he manages to escape from the Navy otherwise there would not be a series of books about John on the High Seas.Donachie cleverly weaves these fictional characters into true historical situations to produce a compelling and utterly absorbing introductory novel.
Buy it here:
Also see:A Flag of Truce by David Donachie