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The Wreck at Sharpnose Point by Jeremy Seal

The Wreck at Sharpnose Point

by Jeremy Seal

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"She stood beneath oaks and sycamores on high ground, close to the lych-gate and the stone outhouse that formed the graveyard's southeast corner. A train of celandines lay at her feet. She was dressed in a tam-o'-shanter and a sporran, and held a cutlass and a round shield on which a flowering thistle was carved. A sash hung from her left shoulder, and beneath it was a glimpse of chain like mermaid scales. Painted white she was almost life-size."

On a trip to Morwenstow, England, Jeremy Seal finds a wooden ship figurehead propped up as a gravemarker and wonders how she came to be on dry land. His investigation leads him to the Caledonia, a ship wrecked off the coast in 1842. After searching through local records, he begins to suspect the locals were 'wreckers' who purposely ran the ship aground, looted it and possibly killed its crew. But he needs evidence and while the coast has a history of shipwrecks, it's difficult to prove his theory. While searching through Morwenstow, Seal recreates what life might have been like on board the Caledonia and how they might have met their tragic end.

Seal has a way with words, as evidenced by the quote above. His writing has a lyrical, haunting quality to it that adds to the recreation of the shipwreck. As well, Seal gives the reader a taste of shipboard life in the 19th century. We follow his search through church records, microfiche and local legends. Piece by piece he constructs a narrative of what might have happened but the amount of time that's passed leaves large holes in his body of evidence.

The problem with this book was, it could have been great. But Seal has so little real information to go on that he ends up padding the book. This includes the recreation, which at most is general and best guess as to what really happened during the shipwreck. But the recreation takes up the majority of the book, with the Seal's search for evidence a poor runner-up. Ultimately the ending was unsatisfactory with no real payoff. ( )
  theduckthief | Oct 27, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151005249, Hardcover)

While walking through a cliff-top graveyard in the town of Morwenstow on the coast of Cornwall, the author encounters a wooden Scottish figurehead that once adorned the Caledonia, a ship wrecked on the English coast in 1842. Through further investigation, Seal begins to suspect the townspeople, and chiefly the town's parson, Robert Hawker, for the Caledonia's demise on the jagged shores below. Though no one has ever been brought to court for "wrecking"-luring ships ashore to loot the cargo-it's a commonly held belief that this sort of cruelty did take place. But, is that what happened in Morwenstow?

Having meticulously researched maritime logs, broadsides of the day, and other first-hand documents, Seal weaves history, travelogue, and imaginative reconstruction into this marvelous piece of detective work, bringing us a mystery of the best kind-the sort that really did happen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:33 -0400)

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Ismay and Mara are Irish orphans, sent to Australia against their will by the authorities. Even wrose, they're separated on arrival. While Ismay is forced to take a job as a maid in the country, Mara must stay in the care of the Catholic mission. Desperate to be reunited with each other, they both escape. But there is danger in the bush...… (more)

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