- Paperback: 130 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub (15 July 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1500479489
- ISBN-13: 978-1500479480
- Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 0.8 x 27.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Peter Simple Paperback – Import, 15 Jul 2014
|Paperback, Import, 15 Jul 2014||
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I gave it 4 stars because it is dated in a way that truly great novels of the period, such as Jane Austen’s, are not. Characters reappear after years, making the plot seem contrived, and the intrigue of the inheritance requires an aristocratic sensibility to appreciate, an old fashioned point of view for the American reader. The text predates computer typesetting of course and has numerous typos that will perplex readers unfamiliar with period nautical terms and annoy those who know those terms well. An example is planshear instead of planksheer (gunwale).
However, it’s a fun read that will keep your attention till the happy ending where all the strands of the narrative are neatly pulled together. Who cares if it’s contrived?
The plot of Peter Simple is rather thin; it concerns the training of a young midshipman, Peter Simple, 'the greatest fool in his family,' and how he is cheated out of his inheritance, only to eventually regain it. Along the way he meets a cast of engaging characters who tell their own stories. The results is highly discursive, but the characters are so sympathetic and their tales are so amusing that you don't mind that these digressions are not actually forwarding the plot. Chief amongst them is master's mate O'Brien who befriends the foolish young midshipman and they become bosom friends who share many adventures. Case in point, at one point they are captured by the French, escape from a French prison, then disguised as a pair of stilt-walkers, stilt-walk across France to gain their freedom. Peter, being the younger and prettier of the two, is obliged to wear the female costume. In this guise he comes face to face with the French girl he adores much to his chagrin. Readers of Aubrey/Maturin will recollect their escape across France with Jack disguised as a dancing bear. Marryat is funnier.
The adventures in Peter Simple are not impossible, merely improbable, and that's all part of the fun. Marryat has a fertile imagination that can wed a nautical adventure tale with all sorts of comic and sentimental happenings -- and I mean 'sentimental' in a good way. Marryat believes in true love and honor and happily ever after; Peter Simple is a sort of nautical fairy tale. It was my good fortune to read it immediately after Voltaire's Candide, and there is much in common between the two. Both Candide and Peter Simple are fools: naive, kind, good, generous, and woefully taken advantage of by the unscrupulous people around him, but are helped by various colorful friends who undergo adventures of their own. Candide's Dr. Pangloss was hanged by the Spanish Inquisition; Peter's friend O'Brien was murdered by brigands and buried in the sand. Pangloss owes his survival to the assistance of the doctor that intended to perform an autopsy on him; O'Brien survives thanks to having his nose trod on by a pretty girl who then digs him out.
Although there is a great deal of improbability in Peter Simple, it all derives from elements that are entirely believable in themselves. For example, when the brand new Mr Midshipman Simple reports on board, the other middies take advantage of him by charging tarts to his account. When he discovers the bill, he pays it because he's such an honorable young man that he refuses to deprive the bumboat woman of her money. He never manages to collect from the other middies, but he learns a hard lesson -- never run into debt and don't buy on credit. This tale of the tarts actually has a great many more chapters to it, with a detour through pastry shops and cheating at church, resulting in the wayward middies wearing tarts on their heads while on the quarterdeck. You may wonder how it is even possible to cheat while attending worship, but let me assure you, our middies are clever enough to figure it out.
A rambling tale, it is not the well-organized bit of literature we dignify with the name of 'novel,' which is why I gave it only four stars, but it's well worth a few hours of your time. Reading Peter Simple is like drinking in a tavern with old salts who never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
~review by M. Kei, author of The Sallee Rovers (Pirates of the Narrow Seas)