Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Buccaneer by Dudley Pope

Dudley Pope’s Buccaneer shows promise on the surface, but doesn’t really deliver as a novel. Set in the 17th century, it tells the story of a royalist plantation owner in Barbados who finds that he will have to flee the island or face the Roundheads whose fleet is coming over from England to subdue the Caribbean settlements. The protagonist, Ned Yorke, snatches his neighbour’s wife and makes his escape only to find that it is not so easy to decide what to do afterwards.

The main failing of the story is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. The protagonists, Ned and his beloved whose name I’ve forgotten spend their time in endless discussions what they are going to do and what they should do and whether or not the lady can be with Ned since she’s legally still married. Then they meet another seafaring couple who they begin to idolise and then spend the rest of the book discussing whether they should model themselves after their new friends and what they should be doing. The writer also makes an effort to switch the point of view here and there and show what other characters think of the protagonist, but even these manage to repeat the same information multiple times.

In the midst of the dull conversations, Ned manages to learn something about seafaring (not really shown to the readers) and trades with Spanish settlements, engages in one brief altercation with the Spanish coast guard and attacks one Spanish city in a finale that makes such attacks seem very easy indeed.

Perhaps the worst thing about the novel was the formatting of the Amazon Kindle edition. If I had reported all the errors, there would have been several of them for every page of the novel. The low quality of the ebook really makes me regret the price that I paid for it.

Overall, I found Pope’s prose relatively dull fare. Ned’s endless self-doubts and repetitive discussions about the same issues over and over again with his fellow travellers really sapped the story of any interest that it might have otherwise built up. It is doubtful whether I will pick up the sequel, even though the era described is my passion.