The Sisters Brothers meets Master and Commander in Robert Hough's rollicking and raucous new historical novel.
About the Author-
Robert Hough's novels have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His most recent novel, Dr. Brinkley's Tower, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. He lives in Toronto.
March 7, 2016
Hough, whose 2013 novel, Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, was nominated for the Governor General’s Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada, creates a fictionalized account of a real-life 17th-century swashbuckler. Benjamin Wand is a chess-playing hustler deported from London to Port Royal, Jamaica. He joins the crew of the ship Pearle, captained by the Englishman Henry Morgan and tasked with loosening Spain’s grip on its Caribbean territory. After a successful and treasure-rich mission, Morgan takes an interest in Wand as a chess tutor, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, which continues even when Morgan is appointed governor of Jamaica. Hough, a former journalist, based his text on Wand’s autobiography and his own extensive research. Wand and his relationship with Morgan are fascinating, but Hough spends too much time spent incorporating tidbits from his research that slow the pace and don’t serve the story. There is also a distracting difference between Wand’s articulate first-person narration, possibly his older self reflecting back on his life, and his dialogue throughout the book in the voice of his illiterate, street-urchin beginnings. Wand has an intriguing life story but Hough’s telling doesn’t fully do it justice. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists.
May 1, 2016
Benny Wand is an illiterate, chess-playing hustler and petty thief in 17th-century London. Arrested and deported to Port Royal, Jamaica, known for its roughnecks and lawlessness, Benny lands in the company of privateer Henry Morgan and his seagoing brethren. Morgan finds the sandbagging con man to be clever and useful as a strategy consultant, but this tenuous alliance comes with dangerous strings attached, for both parties. Their perilous relationship takes them through Panamanian jungles, battles with the Spanish, and fortunes lost and won. With trust ever a central issue, this constantly strained union could prove to be fatal. VERDICT Hough (Dr. Brinkley's Tower) spins this historical novel with pleasnant touches of believability. It reads at a good clip with the humid, sinew-knotting, bug-infested, and sweaty narrative of an eyewitness.--Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ
Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Starred review from November 1, 2016
Twenty-year-old Benny Wand stands before the judge with 10 seconds to decide: Newgate prison or deportment to Jamaica. Jamaica it is, and he is off to the town of Port Royal to start over. Arriving with nothing but the clothes on his back, Benny continues the life that got him arrested: conning money by playing chess. He lives in the back alleys of Port Royal until the infamous privateer Henry Morgan takes him on as a crew member, and they head out on a raid. Surviving high seas, jungle, and heat, Benny perseveres and, at a crucial moment, realizes that their strategy is wrong. The young man attracts the attention of Morgan, and an unlikely friendship ensues as Morgan, an expert chess player himself, compels Benny to join him regularly in a game. Unable to beat Benny, Morgan recognizes him as a master strategist and relies upon him for tactical insight. The protagonist revels in the attention but becomes increasingly concerned as his inherent belief in the goodness of humanity collides with the growing sordidness of their raids and Morgan's deteriorating health and sanity. Sophisticated teens will appreciate this excellent tale. The sights, sounds, and smells of 1600s Jamaica come alive through Benny's eyes. Chess players, privateers, prostitutes, gamblers, and the upper crust create the rich environment in which Benny lives while searching for meaning in his life. VERDICT Chess, history, and the art of the con mingle to create a top-notch tale that many mature teens will enjoy.-Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
PublisherHouse of Anansi Press Inc
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