Harvey Cheyne is fifteen years old and the spoiled son of a railway tycoon – a combination that is not conducive to pleasantness. In general, he’s extremely spoiled and likes to lord it over everyone.
While traveling on a luxury ship across the Atlantic Ocean, he accidentally falls off the ship and is fished out from the sea by a fishing boat. Harvey imperiously demands to be dropped back home, but he gets a thump on the side of his head for his impudence.
He’s then put to work in the shipping boat learning the duties of a fisherman until the fishing season is over and they can return back to shore. The gruff and hearty crew teach the young man to be worth his salt as they fish the waters off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
The entire book is about how this episode in Harvey Cheyne’s life teaches him some hard life lessons and eventually turns out to be the making of him.
This is a typical boy’s adventure novel in the style of some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s books, and I would normally recommend this book very highly for teenage boys.
One thing is a bit of a bummer though, and that is the language. Kipling has used a typical fisherman’s dialect throughout the book and it takes some getting used to. This is a short book (only about 150 pages), but the beginning is heavy going until you begin to understand the fisherman’s slang.
Once all the characters are introduced, and the focus turned to the fishing, I started to get into the book and enjoyed it quite a bit. But that is because I have always liked nautical books. If you are not into ship-lore, you are not going to enjoy this one.
Another aspect of the book that was a little boring was how quickly Harvey Cheyne adjusts to life on the shipping boat. A story becomes interesting if there is conflict and its resolution, however in this book, the conflict is minimal and the resolution completed up front. I was hoping for a little more fight and back and forth between Harvey Cheyne and the fishing boat’s captain, but that never happened.
Overall, I liked this book all right, but as far as a classic goes, it’s a pretty light-weight and straight-forward read. I expected a little more character development and a little more adventure. The fishing details though were really enjoyable.
Highly recommend this book for people who like ship-based books such as Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
I read this book as part of my initiative to read more Classics for The Classics Club.
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon