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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 5 January 2014
This is similar territory to King of Shadows, by the same author. It tells two stories, each with alternating chapters bearing the name of the character (somewhat a la Noughts and Crosses but with less originality).

Story number 1 is about Molly, who must be about 11 and has moved to America because of some clichéd family problems. She is drawn to the history of the Victory and Lord Nelson after a kindly bookshop owner lets her have a book all about it for a song when she can't cough up the necessary $25. Her syrupy-sweet mother is always on hand to comfort her whenever she thrown a tantrum and eventually they travel back to England where she yet again freaks out, the reasons for which I will keep to myself lest it spoil the ending. 1 star awarded for this storyline of the book.

More engaging as a person and certainly more convincing as a piece of narrative is the sub-tale of Sam Robbins who is chain-ganged into working on the Victory. He toughens up quickly and spends his time pondering about the battle that is to come as well as dealing with pigs and rats. 2 stars or even 3 for Sam's story.

This title is probably best suited to undemanding ten and 11-year-olds rather than anyone who expects to be treated intelligently. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get used to the two plots going on and it is too tempting to reach for something else - even the author's King of Shadows - as this is hard work keeping up with events and characters' names. The most unpalatable part is the unattractive heroine of the piece who needs to get a grip and stop indulging in self-pity.
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on 7 November 2006
I feel sorry for "a reader", who appears to have completely missed the connection between Sam and Molly (her stepfather, with help, established that Sam was Molly's great-great-great-several times grandfather !). The reason Molly doesn't sell the piece of Nelson's flag that Sam left with his daughter and which then passed on to her, has nothing to do with her implied wealth, and everything to do with remembrance and memorialisation of the dead. Molly's father was killed when his plane went down over the sea - there was no body to recover for a funeral, so her mother held a memorial service which Molly was too young to appreciate. Sam didn't return from his final trip at sea either, so there would not have been a funeral service for him as there was for Admiral Nelson. Molly's act of putting the piece of flag into the sea was an act of remembrance for both her father and her distant ancestor, Sam. The book makes this quite clear when someone explains to Molly how men who are killed at sea are sewn into their hammocks and the remains are slipped into the sea.

As for Molly being a spoilt brat, perhaps "A reader" has never been severely homesick - in which case, they're very, very lucky - but Molly is young and has been uprooted from the home she loved and the only life she remembers, to go and live in a strange country. They may speak English over in the US, but it is still a foreign country, with different customs and habits from Britain.

Susan Cooper has done an excellent job of portraying the dizzying confusion of being uprooted from one's home, something that both Sam and Molly feel, and being transported to an entirely different lifestyle. The connections between the two children are established slowly and surely, and work very effectively. Both characters are drawn sympathetically, and both their stories are told beautifully. This is a fantastic book that shows Cooper's mastery of historical detail and creates both Molly's and Sam's worlds delightfully. I highly recommend this book.
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on 15 December 2006
As a primary teacher (Yr 5), I've come to really enjoy Susan Cooper's work, and this one is no exception: a great story told in an engagingly straightforward manner that draws you in rapidly and certainly made me care for the two main characters: Molly is a 21st century English girl living in America and desperately homesick; Sam is a poor 19th century farm boy whose life is dramatically changed when his uncle, who works in the Chatham Dockyards, offers to take Sam to live with him. The two stories interweave throughout, building to the climax of the Battle of Trafalgar.

I read this book in two sittings, and wanted to do so in one! To my mind, Cooper very successfully tells the story from the perspective of the two youngsters, and leaves you rooting for both of them. To this end, I have to totally agree with Michele and disagree with 'a reader', whose review seemed to show a complete misunderstanding of both the book and the mind of almost every 9-11 year old child I've ever worked with. It's not amongst the very best (I don't give 5 stars lightly!), but certainly high on my list of 'very good' reads.

All in all, I'd thoroughly recommend this book, both as a genuinely enjoyable read (handleable by reasonably literate Year 5/10 year old and up) and as an historical primer to life on board an early 19th century ship. It's certainly on my shortlist of books to be read to my class.

Be warned though - the 2 earlier reviews on this book do discuss and reveal the plot of the end of the story. This isn't a complete spoiler - the book is better than just that - but would have certainly marred my enjoyment of the book if I'd read them beforehand.
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on 18 July 2009
Molly is an English girl starting a new life in modern day America. Sam is an 11 year old country boy who is pressed into service upon HMS Victory at the turn of the 19th century. Two threads of a story that drift together when Molly finds a very special book in a second hand bookshop one wet day.

In the course of the book the reader is transported back to the Battle of Trafalgar. An enjoyable read with plenty of good historical detail and a mystery to resolve itself.

I am so glad that Susan Cooper is writing books again. I think I have read everything she has written, and every book is enjoyable and of a high standard. This book is no exception, and this is as ever a good young adult book.

But, in fact, when reading into this period of history, I would rater Powder Monkey by Paul Dowswell a little more highly. There is even more historical detail in that book, and the story was every bit as good. If you want to read just one book about life aboard a ship in Nelson's day, read "Powder Monkey". But if you want to read a very good story, this one is worth it too.
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on 3 June 2007
This story is an amazing one.

There seem to be two stories woven together in this book.

One of the stories is set in the 17th Century; it is about a boy called Sam who oneday is taken from his family, by his Uncle, to the city where his uncle is a rope weaver. Sam along with his uncle are kidnapped and are taken on to the HMS VICTORY where he is set to work to fight against Napolean.

In the present day a girl called Molly has moved from England to Conneticut with her mother to join her new American stepfather. On a visit to her stepfather's childhood village they stop inside a bookshop and find a piece of Napolean's flag hden inside a book.....

For me 'Victory' is victorious.
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on 5 October 2007
Hers we have two stories separated by two hundred years, yet joined by a fragment of cloth. It is a book that will be very welcome in school libraries as well as in many a private home for it is an extremely well written tale that carries with it a craftily concealed history lesson.

The tale alternates between the story of young Molly, who is homesick when she goes to live in America, and that of Sam, a young boy press-ganged into service on HMS Victory, in time for the battle of Trafalgar.

Molly discovers, in the cover of an old book about Nelson, a piece of the flag that draped his coffin and she senses an echo from the past. However, when she returns home to England, she visits the Victory, and there, for four hours, the two centuries that separate her and Sam disappear and she is carried into the thick of the battle.

This seems very plainly told yet there is great craftsmanship in the telling. It is, at times, very moving, yet it conveys much information about life on board ships of the British Navy, all those years ago. A masterly piece of storytelling.
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on 1 April 2007
I don't want to say too much about this book because I don't want to give the plot away. Molly is an English girl uprooted to Connecticut; Sam is a young boy press-ganged into serving in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Both are lost and homesick but what is the connection between them?

Cooper has great insight into loneliness and displacement. The only drawback to this book, for me, is the rather garish cover.
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on 27 January 2009
My 8 year old son told me tonight that this is the best book he has ever read and he is not easy to please. I found him sat on the sofa after breakfast reading it on a couple of occasions, which is pretty unusual to say the least on a school day. My 11 (just) year old also read it very quickly and enjoyed it immensely.
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on 15 July 2010
It's heartening to see Susan Cooper return to prime form with this first-rate story of a boy's life aboard HMS Victory in Nelson's time. Her writing is excellent - fluent and engaging, with just the right amount of words to tell the story at a good pace. The historical elements are well-researched and she brings life aboard the ship vividly to life, skilfully linking present and past, making accessible to young readers a significant battle of modern naval history, The Battle of Trafalgar.

Told in two parts, we simultaneously have the story of Molly, a young girl in the present day uprooted to Connecticut from her friends, grandparents and everything she's ever known in London when her mum re-marries an American; and we have the story of Sam, a young boy about the same age unwillingly press-ganged into serving aboard the HMS Victory in about 1803, a couple of years before The Battle of Trafalgar. The lost and displaced Molly feels a connection to this boy Sam aboard the Victory, and sets her mind to finding out more about this famous ship.

Susan Cooper draws some well-thought-out characters to go alongside the likable Sam and Molly and writes with feeling and sensitivity about the themes of loss and loneliness, and re-adjustment for children. Highly recommended for ages 8+ - ***** 5 stars.
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on 29 November 2009
Susan Cooper never disappoints ... this is a terrfic read and cleverly done in showing and understanding all the different perspectives of those involved. Great stuff.
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