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Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea

Style: Good

Attitude: Fairly Positive

This review was contributed by Stephen de la B

In Brief: Two memoirs; the first of a London evacuee from WWII, sent to Australia, where he grew up with the idea of finding his elder sister in England, by sailing a yacht back to GB. He died and – the second memoir – his daughter did the journey alone and met her aunt.

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published in: 2006

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  AdventureBiographicalDocumentaryFamilyFriendshipGrowing-UpRomanticSeafaringThought-provoking


Characters:

  • Arthur Hobhouse
  • Kitty (Arthur's sister)
  • Wes and Marty (friends)
  • Aunt Megs ( second mother )
  • Zita (wife)
  • Allie (daughter)

Synopsis:

One story from two memoirs; the orphaned evacuee who wants to find his roots and his daughter who achieves this. He never settles down, and as a result of a nervous breakdown he meets his future wife. Shipmanship and ship construction play a bit part in the story, as do animals and as does the improving life-style of the characters with the timescale ( 60-65 years)

Read a précis of the entire story (will contain spoilers)

Notes:

Loss of family and friends is probably the key to the pathos of the story, as well as the ethics of child ‘evacuation’. The hypocrisy of the ‘Christian’ farmer has an effect on Arthur’s view of religion, which remains vague and suffused with magic and represented by the key round his neck! There is a lot of sentimentality about animals, including the suffering of tuna and the fidelity of the albatross that accompanies Allie’s yacht, true to the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ … a sort of leitmotif to the whole story. For a children’s novel (style and vocabulary) these themes appear very adult.

I do think that elements in this gripping story are a bit fanciful: a girl – hardly an adult – crossing the oceans completely on her own, for instance! Children, too, tend to exaggerate the misery of institutional living if they have been unhappy… one of the really good people in the story – the wife at the farm (Ida) – is given rather a weak character! And the young Australian that Allie met had to be on an English train!

[The doctor, of Aunt Megs’ death] ‘She had gone to sleep, but it was the long sleep, the final sleep.’

Monday 6th April 2015