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Pirates must be more than a teaching aid.
on 29 May 2013
Pirates have to be at least a little evil and tortured, but Tim Severin's protagonist is too much of a Goody Two Shoes. His merry band of friends pitted against their comic-opera captains brought Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' to mind at times, with lashings of ginger rum. The dialogue was not nearly earthy or menacing enough. Severin has obviously read the relevant journals which survive from Sharp's cruise. Although he edits and alters some facts, which is his right as a fiction novelist, the main historical themes emerge accurately. Details of maritime life are well explained, even if they are 'crow-barred' into the narrative rather crudely. He's sharing his research like a schoolteacher and sugaring the pill with a half-hearted adventure story. It's the characterisation that disappoints, being formulaic and shallow. We are left mildly entertained, not captured, by his pirates, and we can get the history elsewhere.