Captains Courageous



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.

My Review

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

  • I loved Kipling’s short stories back in school, not to mention, The Jungle Book. I used to be wary of your typical boys’ adventures till I read The Lost World (can it be called that?) and loved it. I do like books with a nautical turn, just read The Old Man and the Sea and adored its straight-forward-ness. This sounds like an interesting read, but I suppose I’ve had enough fishing details at least for a while so I’ll put this on my TBR list. πŸ™‚

    • Nishita

      @priyatabularasa:disqus Oh, yes, If you have just read The Old Man… then give it a rest before reading this one. Plus. The Old Man…is a better book, this one is pretty simple.

  • I really enjoyed his book The Jungle Book. I am not sure if it would be better then this one since I haven’t read both but you might want to try out that one if you haven’t read it before.

    • Nishita

      @angelasanxiouslife:disqus I’ve read Jungle Book and Kim and enjoyed those books far more than this one. I got the impression he was more comfortable when India was a backdrop for his stories.

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