Monday, 26 March 2018

Eleanor's Odyssey: Journal of the Captain's Wife on the East Indiaman 'Friendship' by Joan Druett



Nautical History/ journal / non-fiction
Various locations

“1799, and French privateers lurked in the Atlantic and the Bay of Bengal. Yet Eleanor Reid, newly married and just twenty-one years old, made up her mind to sail with her husband, Captain Hugh Reid, to the Pacific, the Spice Islands and India. Danger threatened not just from the barely charted seas they would be sailing, but from the lowest deck of Captain Reid’s East Indiaman Friendship, too—from the cages of Irish rebels he was carrying to the penal colony of New South Wales. Yet, confident in her love and her husband’s seamanship, Eleanor insisted on going along.”

A fascinating read, and a must for anyone interested in Nautical History, particularly of the Far East and the East India Company. Joan Druett’s highly entertaining and expert commentary between Eleanor Reid’s own journal entries give an informative background to the voyage, some detail of which would be a little baffling to today’s ‘landlubber’ readers. Aboard ship, and on land, this wonderful view of a by-gone world and its inhabitants going about their daily lives is intriguing and absorbing. From the insight of a Captain’s wife’s wardrobe, through the difficulties of navigation, the threat of privateers, distasteful events (like dealing with constipation) and enjoyable ones, like sighting new and exotic lands, Eleanor’s journal is a joy to read. She is to meet storms, shipwrecks, cannibals, sharks, tigers and (as we know now) just as dangerous mosquitos.

Eleanor herself is a delight to get to know. Charming, witty, obviously well-educated, fearless and undoubtedly brave

A pleasurable read and highly recommended - especially for Women’s History Month

© Helen Hollick

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