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


Nedra: A diversion with cannibals

George Barr McCutcheon, who can deliver a great plot when the mood strikes him, appears not to have been in the mood when he wrote Nedra.

The novel is the prose equivalent of a game of solitaire.

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Nedra by George Barr McCutcheon

Illlus.Harrison Fisher, 1906. 1905 bestseller #5. Project Gutenberg ebook #13967. My grade C+.

Life-long friends Hugh Ridgeway and Grace Vernon have decided to marry when Grace reaches 23, which her late father considered the age of discretion.

Dreading a big society wedding, they elope.

Posing as brother and sister, they sail for Manila, planning to marry there.

To Hugh’s annoyance, bachelors flock around Grace. Henry Veath is particularly attentive.

Hugh is forced to rely for company on beautiful and young Lady “Tennys” Huntingford, whose elderly husband despises her for marrying him for his position.

When the ship strikes a reef in a storm, Hugh and Tennys wash ashore on an island inhabited by cannibals.

The story gets increasingly silly until the U.S. Navy rescues the couple and allows McCutcheon to end the story the way readers expected it would since chapter 5.

Early on, McCutcheon gives Hugh some laugh lines in a manner reminiscent of Jeffrey Farnol.

He soon gives it up.

Neither Hugh or the women are clever enough for word games.

They’re all solitaire types.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni