A.N.Wilson’s powerful new novel explores the life and times of one of the greatest British explorers, Captain Cook, and the golden age of Britain’s period of expansion and exploration.
- A N Wilson
Wilson’s protagonist, witness to Cooks brilliance and wisdom, is George Forester who traveled with Cook as botanist on board HMS Resolution on Cook's second expedition to the southern hemisphere, and penned a famous account of the journey. Resolution moves back and forth across time, to depict Forster’s time with Cook, and his extraordinary later life, which ended with his death in Paris during the French Revolution.
The sub plot here is, was young George gay in his relationship with an Irish deck hand who later becomes a servant in his household? The innuendo is that his overbearing father knows but poor George age 14 is unaware of the close attention of his servant whilst Captain Cook tries to drop subtle hints to the young botanist.
George was born in Germany and his father dominated every aspect of the lad's life. His father was a renowned scientist who, whilst he thinks he knows everything, loses posts and friends by his attitude. There is a tension between them as George and his father decide on this voyage; they create a plot to write up the voyage and make a financial killing before Captain Cook.
We jump backwards and forwards between the voyage and the pair’s life wandering Europe in search of work and patronage. George marries and his wife insists her male friend Assad accompanies them on the honeymoon and after.
Well that’s the plot, as stated above the plot moves backwards and forwards between time zones, this becomes very disorienting for the first 6 to 8 chapters and I must say it baffled me. I found this to be one of the hardest books that I have ever read to be honest. In my past life it was my wont to research eighteenth century ledgers, folios and reports it took a while for me to acquire the skills needed, to read the documents with their arcane spelling and writing and to decipher their meanings. That’s what it was like reading this book; it was like a contest between me and A.N Wilson. He won! I just don’t think I was bright enough to read this book and with all his public recognitions and rewards it must be me and not him.I dont think the latin quotes and english translation of Homer and that lot helped much either . Three mushroom heads .