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Review: Moonraker, by F Tennyson Jesse


Pages: 162
Original date of publication: 1927
My copy: 1981 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Library Thing member, July 2011

One day, young Jacky Jacka visits a witch, where he sees a vision of a woman in a bowl of water. The vision leads him to seek passage on a ship to the West Indies, which is then hijacked en route by the pirate Captain Lovel and the crew aboard the Moonraker. The year in 1801, a time when Napoleon had control of the high seas and the days of swashbuckling piracy was—nearly—on its way out. The story takes young Jacky throughout the Caribbean, and along the way he meets a Frenchman named Raoul and a black man Toussaint L’Ouverture, who works to free Haiti from the forces of Napoleon.

On the surface it’s a fun tale; Tennyson drew her inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson, and obvious comparisons might be made between this book and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. But this novel goes a bit deeper than that. F Tennyson Jesse was a sailor herself; she was also a journalist, so she tended to over-research material for her books. There’s almost too much nautical description in this novel.

Her novels all have similar themes; without wanting to spoil too much about the plot of Moonraker, the author commonly explores themes about women and their place in a typically male environment. Jesse also explores the theme of race, albeit briefly; in that way, I wish that the book had been a bit longer, just so that the author could have explored the Haitian rebellion a little more. According to the introduction at the beginning of my edition, this novel belonged to a dying genre of fiction: the adventure story with an historical setting. I guess some things truly are cyclical.


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