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Coot club by Arthur Ransome
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Coot club (original 1934; edition 1969)

by Arthur Ransome

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481921,406 (4.06)9
Member:TheoClarke
Title:Coot club
Authors:Arthur Ransome (Author)
Info:Harmondsworth : Puffin Books, 1969. Paperback.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:20th century, UK author

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Coot Club by Arthur Ransome (1934)

Recently added byChelsea14458, mgPaul, Jemima_Pett, omf.ph, ArthurRansome, Adurna101, chilperic, private library, imyril
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Coot Club was a trip of nostalgia, since it is one of Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazons books, but this time set in Norfolk, where I live. It was published 1934, but between then and the late 60s little had changed, other than the luxury of a fridge on board the wooden sailing boats. Ten years later most of these boats had been fitted with diesel engines so that quant poles (for pushing the boat along on windless days) were consigned to history. The story is wrapped around the tension arising between the locals in the form of the Coot Club, Tom and his friends, who sail the rivers and lakes and protect wildlife, and the "foreigners", who rent boats for holidays and tear up and down regardless of the courtesies of the rules of the road – which are there both for wildlife and other boaters. It's exciting, funny and with wonderful characters.

A couple of years back my brother hired a boat for a week’s holiday and I joined them for a day and did the exact sail that is described in the first part of the story – and nothing has changed. Ranworth and its wildlife, Horning and its races, holidaymakers in cruisers being flummoxed by sailing boats criss-crossing in front of them, the coots and moorhens nesting at the side of the river, the boom of the bitterns… the stuck-up cruiser sailors with their yachting caps (and in the 60s, their cravats!) and the women with strangely gaudy unsuitable clothing and loud voices. Oh, it’s all still there! I’d add that the main change which could stop this adventure happening now is the ubiquity of mobile phones, but given we’re in Norfolk, and only one network works at my house, I suspect that reception is patchy over the Broads, so maybe you could still have this rollicking adventure of the local boy protecting the wildlife, arousing the ire of the foreigners, who pursue him all over the Broads, causing havoc wherever they go. Maybe today’s kids wouldn’t be able to hitch a lift on a passing wherry, although you do still see the occasional one, but not a working one taking goods up the Yare to Norwich or down to Lowestoft.

Should it best be viewed as a historical novel for today’s kids? I suspect so. I had no trouble doing the same with Princess and the Goblin, or even Professor Branestawm. It’s a cracking story that rips along and got me thoroughly engrossed in it. I’m just not sure today’s youngsters would enjoy it unless they have a keen interest in wildlife or sailing. And that’s the only reason I wouldn’t give it five stars. Oh hang it, it's brilliant and I loved it – I’ll give it five stars! ( )
  Jemima_Pett | Nov 11, 2014 |
Excellent copy apart from some pencilling on map
  chilperic | Sep 1, 2014 |
This is the first of a subseries within the Swallows and Amazons series, involving similar boating adventures but in the Norfolk Broads instead of the northern lake where the first books are set.This and especially the second in this group, The Big Six (which was my favorite when young) involve a certain crime fiction element not in the earlier subseries. ( )
  antiquary | Dec 21, 2013 |
Somehow, this one is less satisfying than the other books. Possibly because Dorothea is mostly the POV character, rather than Dick, and as usual she's so busy making up "exciting" stories that she's not really paying attention to what's actually happening. And the scenes that would be the most interesting - the D's learning to sail - are told rather than shown - external viewpoint. Tom's adventures are actually very strong, and real, though mostly unpleasant (or at least, the consequences would be unpleasant if they actually happened). The bit I like best is when Port and Starboard are chasing after the Teasel - going from the familiar to the barely familiar to the completely unfamiliar, chasing a will-o-the-wisp...and then the consequences of those postcards. Again, it would be interesting to see the whole thing from a grownup point of view (the Admiral barely counts, she's more casual than the children most of the time). And the final crisis, and the way the cloud that's hung over the whole story passes off is excellent. Heh, I bet the boat owners weren't any too happy with the Hullabaloos either, wrecking the Margoletta twice in a week. Good story, just not one of my favorites. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Sep 24, 2013 |
The first of the two Swallows and Amazons books set on the Norfolk Broads, linked to the other books in the series by Dick and Dorothea from Winter Holiday. It's a few months after their trip to the North Pole, and they are still smitten with the sailing bug. So naturally they are very pleased when an old friend of their mother invites them to stay with her on a yacht in Norfolk. Unfortunately, it looks as though the boat won't actually be going anywhere... Of course, they make friends with some local kids who are all keen sailors, and find themselves involved in a complicated scheme to protect one of them when he has to go underground to hide from a bunch of Hullabulloos.

Tom-Dudgeon-the-doctor’s-son (there is always a bit of a Happy Families aspect to Ransome) is an interesting new character: a bit like Captain John in the boyish way he carries the heavy weight of responsibility around with him, but with intriguing extra elements of handyman and ecoterrorist thrown into the mixture. The twins Port and Starboard are fun, but maybe a bit too generic. You get the impression that Ransome must have built them up out of a brief glimpse of two little girls in a racing dinghy, filling in the details where needed with bits of generic Nancy-and-Peggyness. Something I hadn't noticed when I read these books before is the cunning way Ransome never commits himself to saying how old the children are. That way he allows readers of a wide range of ages to identify with the characters, and he also gives himself the maximum freedom to make them independent or vulnerable as required by the plot.

The three working-class lads who make up the crew of the Death And Glory seem to be a slightly too obvious concession to objections against the cosy middle-classness of the earlier books. They don't really emerge as individuals in this book, although of course they do have a much bigger role in The big six. The working-class adults who appear are portrayed affectionately and quite convincingly, but there is always a slightly patronising edge there. An elderly barge-skipper is shown to us as someone who should be respected for his experience and craft knowledge, but we’re left in no doubt at all that he has to acknowledge the little daughters of a country solicitor as his social superiors. We’re definitely still in 1930s England!

Unlike the Lake District books, where Ransome found it necessary to obfuscate the locations a little bit, these Norfolk books are very specific geographically. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, it's now easy to find old Popular Edition Ordnance maps from the 1940s where you can follow their entire journey, including all the old railway bridges that aren't there any more. Ransome’s own sketch-maps are part of the fun of reading these books, of course, but it's nice to be able to relate them to a wider context, especially in places like Yarmouth, where so much has changed in the last fifty years. ( )
2 vote thorold | Jun 15, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur Ransomeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guillemot-Magitot, G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolf, GabrielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0879237872, Paperback)

It all started with a coot's nest. Dorothy and Dick meet Tom Dodgeon, Port and Starboard, and three pirate salvagers all members of the Coot Club Bird Protection Society. When one of the coot's nests is disturbed by a shipful of Hullabaloos-rude holiday boaters - trouble begins. Frantic chases, calamitous boat collisions, and near drownings fill the pages of this exciting fifth addition to Ransome's classic children's series.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Dorothy and Dick have an adventure in the English countryside, involving frantic chases, calamitous boat collisions, and the attempts of their friends to protect nesting birds from rude holiday boaters.

(summary from another edition)

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