Old England bildungsroman, injustice, crime, prison, shipwreck, "Y" as a recurring motif

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Old England bildungsroman, injustice, crime, prison, shipwreck, "Y" as a recurring motif

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May 30, 2013, 10:25am

Greetings gentlereaders.

I come to ask about a book I read in the 90s, in translation, but ineffably it sounded older than that. I keep quite vivid memories of some scenes but cannot find it on the google.

It begins in a rural/coastal village in 19th century(?) England (?). The hero is a vague-adolescent boy that lives with his uncle (?) innkeeper, there is a nice priest/teacher and a local lord who is a massive ass to everyone.
The symbol of the village is a Y that supposedly symbolised the right, hard way and the wrong, easy way. There is something about a childhood sweetheart ?
At some point someone gets slapped with a fish (no, it's not Asterix).
Later the inn lease runs out and the innkeeper must partake in a candle auction for the new lease, Lord Ass outbids him way over the market price just to kick him out.

Stuff happens, the boy leaves the village, travels abroad with a former convict who becomes a surrogate father of sorts. The boy engage in petty crime and they are both sent to forced labor. There is branded on the face with a Y which is reminiscent of the one from back in his village, and he reflects that he has taken the wrong path, but it is too late to change.

They are taken to Australia (?) by boat but shipwreck in a storm, would'nt you know, just near where it all began. In the rough sea the con carries the boy to safety and dies of exhaustion, he is buried with John 15:13 as an epitaph. Boy reunites with his sweetheart, something something ever after.

Sometimes I wonder if I may not be splicing two books...

Anyway, does that remind anyone of anything ?

Thank you in advance for your help, this has obsessed me ever since I decided to librarything.

May 30, 2013, 10:44am

Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner

May 30, 2013, 10:48am

This sounds like Moonfleet. The main family in the village has a Y shape in its coat of arms. The hero John Trenchard gets involved with smugglers and leaves home. There is an auction for the inn and the owner loses it. Lots of adventures ensue, and at the end John return to the village and his sweetheart.

May 30, 2013, 11:09am

Thank you, that is clearly it.