“Money ships were wrecks of treasure-galleons belched up from the bottom of the sea after tremendous storms, yielding doubloons and all kinds of precious treasure ... gold bars and bullion, chests of brilliant gems. Oriental adventurer Captain Rochester spun an entrancing tale to Jerusha, seafaring daughter of Captain Michael Gardiner — a story of a money ship, hidden in the turquoise waters of the South China Sea, which was nothing less than the lost trove of the pirate Hochman. As Jerusha was to find, though, the clues that pointed the way to fabled riches were strange indeed — a haunted islet on an estuary in Borneo, an obelisk with a carving of a rampant dragon, a legend of kings and native priests at war, and of magically triggered tempests that swept warriors upriver. And even if the clues were solved, the route to riches was tortuous, involving treachery, adultery, murder, labyrinthine Malayan politics … and, ultimately, Jerusha’s own arranged marriage.”
Joan Druett is a Master Mariner of her craft – the craft of writing maritime history and fiction, that is. This highly entertaining – and absorbing – nautical tale is one of those novels that keeps you turning the pages anxious to know what happens next. Descriptions, dialogue, aboard and ashore scenes are filled with incredible believability so much so that you feel you are a fly on the wall watching real people perform, not fictional made-up characters. You can feel the ship moving, hear the wind in the rigging, the crash or gurgle of the waves. Feel the spray on your face and smell the smells. Intrigue and adventure takes us with the Captain and crew to different ports and harbours on different voyages over a period of years and all the while we grow to know the characters well and try to puzzle out the mystery that is deepening about Turtle Island and its lure of treasure.
There are distant lands and their native peoples, shipwrecks, pirates, clement weather and storms. A superb tale of adventure populated with nice, likeable characters and boo-hiss baddies.
Let me say first of all that this a very emotional story and for a number of different reasons. It deals with two women, mother Ruth and daughter Mary who have never met. Mary was adopted at the age of seven weeks and has accepted her kind and loving foster parents as her own. She has never had any interest in finding her birth mother until her own daughter, Jenny, aged five, asks about her.
All her life (Mary is now twenty-eight) she has refused to think about her mother, assuming she had been cruelly and heartlessly given away by a woman who could not or would not love and care for her. The women tell us their stories in alternate chapters, Ruth's story being the longest. She tells in a matter of fact manner of how, as a young child, she endured and eventually survived, the death camps of Nazi Germany, returned to England and found employment as a nanny, but with unfortunate consequences.
I had a couple of niggles: the 'present day' is not defined and it took me a little time to establish that it most probably took place in the latter part of the 1970s. I felt there was some repetition when Ruth is arguing with her employers and trying to defend her actions. There were also a (very) few typos.
Those issues apart, it is a book about the sheer horrors the Jewish people faced at the hands of the Nazis, the attitudes of post war life towards unmarried mothers, the actions of a refuge for 'girls in trouble' run by Catholic nuns, a mother who regrets her own actions and a daughter who condemns her mother without knowing anything about her. The ending is simple but none the less emotional.