Another Review at MyShelf.Com
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF JOHN NICOL, MARINER
Back in 1822 a chance encounter between a philanthropic bookbinder and a destitute old mariner caused a little book to be printed which enabled the worthy old salt to end his days comfortably an even to leave £30 in his will. John Nicol has a wonderful tale to tell and reveals himself as a delightfully uncomplicated, sunny-natured and observant storyteller who is miles away from the stereotypical seadog of fiction. In admirably economical terms Nicol tells how he circumnavigated the world twice, hunted whales, saw Hawaii just after Captain Cook’s murder, befriended slaves in Grenada and went out on the second convict ship to Australia where he met the love of his life.
It is the frankness and unexpected details that truly bring this book to life. Nicol is a sober fellow who reads his Bible when he first comes aboard, hates strong language and is very naïve about sex. China doesn’t impress him much and he remarks how nothing ever changes and how, for all their much-vaunted skills there are many practical objects that are beyond their craftsmen’s limits. Nails with heads for example. The slaves in Grenada impress him with their cheerfulness in a way that their white masters fail to. Even their songs are cheerful and he records a few.
Some of the introduction I felt was redundant as it is all explained very plainly in the actual text save the highly interesting details about Nicol’s benefactor and his ultimate death in relative comfort but I was most impressed by the actual narrative. It won’t take long to read this book but it stays in the mind for some time afterwards. One for the keeper shelf.