The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
BEST SELLERS: His book Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the 2003 Newbery Medal. He has also written Nothing But the Truth, and Beyond the Western Sea, among other books.
1ST PUBLISHED: 1990; this novel has won several awards, including as a Newbery Honor Book
GENRE: Adventure/ Young Adult Historical Fiction
In 1832, thirteen year old Charlotte Doyle is returning from her school in England to her family in America. Charlotte’s voyage takes place on the Seahawk, a seedy ship headed by a murderously cruel captain and sailed by a mutinous crew. When Charlotte gets caught up in the bitter feud between captain and crew, she winds up on trail for murder…and is found guilty!
Not every thirteen year old girl is accused of murder, brought to trail and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however…If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
The unique story of a unique girl, this is one unlike any I have read before. Groomed to be a “lady”, young Charlotte always knew that it was her destiny to be one. American by birth, she was sent to Barrington School for Better Girls, in England, when she was a six year old. At the age of thirteen, however, it was decided that she return home to her family. Therefore, on June the 16th , 1832, Charlotte found herself on the Seahawk, a ship owned and operated by her father’s firm- but without the two families known to her parents who were meant to chaperone her.
Terrified at having to travel alone with no woman on board to look after her, Charlotte quite understandably gravitates towards the captain- the only man with “unimpeachable refinement.’’ Charmed by his manners, delighted by his praise, and eager to please him, Charlotte agrees to be his eyes and ears whenever she interacts with the sailors in order to “civilize’’ them, by reading passages out of books or by discussing religion with them.
Stoutly ignoring the dire warnings of a few members of the crew, including an old black man by the name of Zachariah who ‘‘presumptuously’’ offers her a hand of friendship, Charlotte herself walks into a death trap. In her desire to do what is ‘right’, Charlotte becomes the cause of brutal violence that a child should never be witness to. Undergoing a complete and astounding transformation, this little girl takes unbelievable measures for her atonement.
Despite the astonishing events that follow, the entire account sounds like it really has been inspired from real life experience; and not just because of the first person narration. The author keeps you wondering what would happen next, and the unanticipated conclusion adds charm to this dark tale. As Zachariah put it, it really is a voyage to remember.
RATING: 4 on 5
PRICE: Rs.281/- (Flipkart)
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