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Books I like: Captain Blood January 11, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books I like.

At Christmas someone finally paid attention to my Amazon wish list (thanks, Mavis!), and I got a new paperback edition of one of my favorite childhood reads.

Rafael Sabatini’s second-most famous novel (after Scaramouche) is as good as I remember. The authors of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies owe him a debt of gratitude, but then again so do anyone who’s ever made a pirate movie, period.

If you’ve seen the 1935 Errol Flynn version you know the plot: principled Irish doctor is arrested for tending the injuries of a supporter of the Monmouth rebellion, and is sold as a slave to a Jamaican sugar plantation. He escapes and becomes a pirate, while falling madly in love with the plantation owner’s daughter who seems to scorn him for his thieving ways. He incurs the wrath of the Spanish while juggling loyalties to the French and English.

Sabatini writes in the nineteenth-century popular style of Mark Twain and Jack London (hard to believe this was published in 1922). The style is appropriate to the subject, although Sabatini shares those estimable writers’ clumsiness with female characters (and before you disagree, have you tried to read The Sea-Wolf lately?)

A well-written introduction by Gary Hoppenstand puts the novel in the context of the demands of popular fiction of the time, and puts Peter Blood in the tradition of Robin Hood and Sir Percy Blakeney.

Although I recommend the Penguin Classics edition, you can also read it online for free thanks to Project Gutenberg.

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