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Wager (Mariner's Library Fiction Classics) (edition 1999)

by Richard Woodman

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321503,926 (2.5)None
Member:fredalss
Title:Wager (Mariner's Library Fiction Classics)
Authors:Richard Woodman
Info:Sheridan House (1999), Paperback, 249 pages
Collections:Your library
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Wager by Richard Woodman

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I was given this book by a friend as he knew I am a sucker for historical fiction and have read other works of this ilk. That said, Richard Woodman was a new author to me.

The book centres on two tea clippers, the Erl King and the Seawitch, bringing tea from Shanghai to London in 1869 and a wager between their respective captains, 'Cracker Jack' Kemble and Dandy Richard Richards. The first ship back to Britain carrying the first of the season's tea could expect to be paid a premium on arrival but at stake is Captain Kemble's daughter's, Hannah, hand in marriage to Captain Richards should the latter win. When Jack Kemble is killed by pirates early in the voyage Hannah, who is travelling on-board her father's ship, is forced to take command.

Now personally, I found the depictions of handling and the navigation of the ship over thousands of miles of barren sea and the difficulties that the men of sailing ships faced due to the vagaries of wind and weather rather exhilarating even if I didn't understand all the technical elements.

However, I found the characterization flimsy and improbable at best. I found the story's would-be heroine Hannah, completely unbelievable, she seemed to change her mind so often that she bordered on the psychopathic. Whilst I appreciate that she was supposed to be a woman in a man's world and that she was supposed to be changing from a dependant to a fully independent woman I just didn't buy it at all. Similarly, whilst I felt a little sympathy for the lovesick Munro, the ship's second officer, I found him staid and predictable. As for the "sinister" Welsh Captain of the Seawitch. The thought that he was so driven by lust for Hannah, a woman whom he had only met the once, that he would stake everything just to possess her, bordered on the ridiculous frankly. The other minor characters were little better IMHO although the Chinese prostitute travelling as a passenger under the protection of her rich Chinese protector did at least offer some light relief.

The genesis of this book, the races between the tea clippers to be the first back to port, on the face of it seems to be a neat idea, so on the whole I think that this was rather a missed opportunity. Overall, I found it generally poorly handled and the so called love angle totally unnecessary. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Nov 14, 2018 |
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In Shanghai and Foochow, the crack British tea-clippers are loading the season's tea, preparing for the annual race to bring their valuable cargoes tothe London market. Unfortunately for Hannah, only one thing matters to the iron-willed captains about to pit their skills against the perils of three oceans: to be the first to make it home.… (more)

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