Marooned on Boon Island, survivors eat ship’s carpenter

Kenneth Roberts needed no assistance in creating a compelling plot for his historical novel Boon Island.

The facts are horrific.

Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts

Doubleday, 1956. 274 pp. 1956 best-seller #10. My Grade: B-.

On December 11, 1710, the Nottingham, an English vessel headed for Portsmouth with a load of butter and cheese, struck Boon Island off the Maine coast in the middle of a nor’easter.

Lighthouse and three buildings on small rocky island
Tiny Boon Island seen in a 1911 postcard. The lighthouse was built in 1854-55.

Of the 14 on board when the ship sank, only 10 lived to be rescued January 4, 1711.

The marooned men included a boy of perhaps 8 or 10  and his partially disabled father, the captain’s epileptic brother, and seamen both stupid and cruel.

Without food, tools, or fire, the cold, hungry survivors ate seaweed, raw mussels, a seagull, and finally, the ship’s carpenter.

Had it not been for the courage and leadership of Captain John Dean, it’s unlikely that anyone would have survived.

Despite the riveting events, Boon Island is a dull novel.

The narrator is too remote, the characters too static, the descriptions too vague, the language too modern and sanitary to make readers feel they are at the scene.

However, the story itself is so incredible, if you pretend Boon Island is the printed description of a film and imagine the visuals, you’ll can make it a compelling read.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni


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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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