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on 24 September 2012
I love biographies of historical characters. So I picked up this book with relish and read how enthusiastic the author was with her subject matter. Unfortunately my enthusiasm waned rather quickly. What the reader is treated to is a rather two-dimensional account of the life of James Cook. Did I feel I knew James Cook? Yes, but in a rather superficial and unsatisfying way. What was the driving force behind this great man? I'm still left wondering. A rather odd addition is the interleaving of George Collingridge (a distant ancestor of the author). He had a similar interest in Cook, but his inclusion in the book is tenuous at best. Eventually I found this constant switching between biographies tiresome and skipped the chapters on George's life. The book is a confusing mixture of the author's interest in Cook and her ancestory and this confusion leaves me wondering what the purpose of the book actually is. I later found "Captain James Cook a biography" by Richard Hough. I only wish I had found this book first.
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on 31 March 2003
An excellent read - superbly written, full of the excitement and adventure that Cook experienced for himself. Far from being a book of just historical facts, Collingridge brings Cook to life and you feel the determination of the man. I would recommend this to not just those who enjoy the stories of the world's explorers but anyone looking for a top quality read.
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on 2 December 2013
The author uses too much of the book telling us about a Victorian ancestor of hers. I wanted to learn more about Captain Cook. I did but felt I was wasting time reading about George Collingridge.
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on 16 April 2009
Vannessa Collingridge takes a considerable risk in fusing her biography of Capt. Cook with that of her own ancestor George Collingridge who had his own views on the discovery of Australia, where he lived in the early settler days. At one point I thought the juxtaposition was going to be forced but in fact she carries it off quite brilliantly. She also succeeeds in giving a more in depth and rounded picture of Cook himself.
A thoroughly good read!
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on 3 April 2009
As a previous reviewer said, the book needs more maps of the journeys discussed. It also intersperses Cook's story with that of George Collingridge, who claimed Cook wasn't the first person to discover Australia. Luckily, most of the Collingridge story is in distinct chapters so you can skip them if you want. Overall a good read.
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on 3 February 2009
Fantastic read - even better if you saw Vanessa Collingridge's TV series. Intriguing information on how life was like sailing at that time of history without the benefits of modern technology. Also an insight of what lengths a man will go to when he believes in his own theory.The idea of comparison of Collingridge's ancestor's theory re: Australia which runs alternately with Cook's voyages is captivating.
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on 12 May 2013
A really well crafted biography, Vanessa Collingridge relates Cook's story (warts and all) with an added twist. A must for anyone with a love of exploration and the sea.
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on 25 April 2009
I hadn't read a book about Cook before. With this one I was not hopeful of moving much beyond the heroic Captain James Cook of my schooldays. At the very least I was expecting a simple chronological report of the life of this historic figure. However, whilst both of these preconceptions were in a sense fulfilled there was so much more in this book. The author weaves the story of the explorer with that of her relative, George Collingridge who had moved to Australia in the 1800s and whose research had suggested that Cook was not the discoverer of the continent, but that this had been achieved far earlier by the Portuguese. Bringing this personal angle on the story of Cook together with her own obviously passionate research results in a balanced book, historically-based but with something of the detective novel about it. At times the language is too descriptive, putting thoughts and emotions into the historical characters, but I was increasingly less irritated by this as the book went on.
Here was a man born into relative poverty at a time when it was difficult to escape from such a start. The help of benefactors and huge self-determination resulted in a most extraordinary life. I particularly enjoyed the effort the author made to piece together the character of Cook, his leadership, openness to other cultures, perseverance, courage and his science. At the same time he hardly sees his wife, leaving her behind for three major voyages lasting years each; his children die while he is away and he slowly changes character, becoming unpredictable and at times cruel, as perhaps illness and the years of responsibility take their toll. The years take their toll on reputation as well - in neither Botany Bay or Kealakeku Bay is Cook now feted. But go to Whitby in Yorkshire and Anchorage in Alaska and you will still see his statue. Think of getting from one country to the other in a 30 metre boat with little in the way of maps and at least grudgingly recognize his achievement. This book is great way to learn something of Captain James Cook an exceptional man of his age.
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on 15 April 2003
I didn't know much about Captain Cook so picked up the book. Full of good information for someone new to the topic. But the author praised Cook too exceedingly. She didn't address his home life sufficiently, or his descent into unpredictable behaviour. I didn't get a picture of the man - even though that was her stated goal in the introduction.
Overall, it was interesting but didn't dig deep enough.
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on 7 December 2008
Cook went from being a farm worker's son in Yorkshire to being a Royal Navy captain who three great voyages of exploration charted more of the planet than anyone in history. But this book is not only about Cook but also a 19th century relative of the author who was not welcomed by Australian contemporaries for arguing that the Portuguese had got to Australia well before Cook.

Cook had only four years of formal schooling but became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He took advantage of the latest technology, the chronometer, to achieve his meticulous charting. He was a fine leader of men and cartographer but the author believes ill health contributed to a decline in his leadership and to his death at the hands of the Hawaiians. I do not believe this biography is hagiography. He is here warts and all. Mrs Cook. left by her husband for most of their married life, suffered also the loss of her children. Unfortunately she destroyed the family letters which would have told us so mush more about one of history's greatest sailors.

One small criticism. The book would be much improved by more maps of the voyages.
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