Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

By my personal star rating system a four star book represents a book I might read again. Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous is ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ by that measurement.

I went to Project Gutenberg the other day looking for a copy of Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. While browsing there I picked up a copy of Captains Courageous. It has been a long time since I read the story, and honestly, the Spencer Tracy movie version was jumbled up with my memory of the book.

Captains Courageous is the coming of age story of Harvey Cheyne, the spoiled son of a wealthy family. The short synopsis: When Harvey falls over board from a large cruise liner he is rescued by a small fishing bark, the We're Here. Harvey learns what it means to be a man while earning his keep during a fishing season on “The Banks.” Harvey is returned to his doting mother and self-made rich father who then teaches Harvey the value of an education. Harvey grows up to be a resilient, educated, soon to be, captain of business, a Captains Courageous.

That doesn't sound like a particularly exciting story line to me. Does it to you? So why might I read Captains Courageous again? Kipling is a good story teller. That point can not be undersold. The people in the story are full of life. The scenery (ocean waves, fog, wind in the sails) is majestic and powerful. The dialects are fun. And the histories of the men are appealing. And in our current time of “entitled children” it's good to see a spoiled boy become a respected man. Is that still possible? I have a seventeen year old son, I'll let you know.

George W. Parker