Fic­tion Res­o­lu­tion

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

A. N. Wil­son (At­lantic Books, £16.99)

capt cook crossed the antarc­tic cir­cle in the 1770s in Res­o­lu­tion—and res­o­lu­tion was truly needed, given the ar­du­ous con­di­tions that some­times de­fied even cook’s care­ful plan­ning. Res­o­lu­tion the book is based on the diaries of the young Ge­orge Forster, a Ger­man whose ob­du­rate, poly­mathic fa­ther rein­hold re­placed Joseph banks as the ex­pe­di­tion’s sci­en­tist af­ter banks’s de­mands for a lux­u­ri­ous cabin had been re­jected.

For Ge­orge, en­ter­ing man­hood on a ship that spent sev­eral years away from civil­i­sa­tion added to the or­deal; while cook took great pains to en­sure the health of his crew, Ge­orge’s later at­trac­tive­ness to the op­po­site sex was not im­proved by hav­ing teeth lost from scurvy. the cer­tain­ties of his lutheran fa­ther are less en­dear­ing—but very funny.

the story swings be­tween Ge­orge’s time at sea, his later, dif­fi­cult mar­riage and his last years, in which he found him­self en­meshed in the French revo­lu­tion. all is vividly imag­ined and the reader fol­lows his ad­ven­tures breath­lessly. Suc­cess as an au­thor and man of sci­ence was at­tended with per­sonal dis­as­ters that win our sym­pa­thy. the con­di­tions on board Res­o­lu­tion are de­scribed com­pellingly—as is the bac­cha­na­lian be­hav­iour of the crew when the ship an­chored in the South Seas (Ge­orge, for the most part, stuck to his task of draw­ing the botan­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies be­ing made by his fa­ther).

cook is stern and un­com­mu­nica­tive, but as much a hero as he would have been to Boys’ Own. as with a. n. Wil­son’s other nov­els, Res­o­lu­tion could be read for the his­tor­i­cal back­ground as well as the story. oc­ca­sion­ally, the bi­og­ra­pher gets the bet­ter of the nov­el­ist and we read more than we strictly need to know about some of the by­ways of the En­light­en­ment—al­though some may find that this adds to the stature of what is an epic book. Clive Aslet

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.