Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bookshot #113: Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons is one of those books that I've had kicking around on my shelf for years now, but I had never actually gotten around to reading. After finishing up our Roald Dahl books, I tried it with Austin for a chapter or two to see if maybe he would be interested in reading it next, but he didn't really click with it and we snagged Mossflower instead- but then I figured, if I had read a couple of chapters I might as well just keep reading it to see what it was all about.

The adventures of the children from two families during their summer vacation, Swallows and Amazons related the adventures of the Walker children, (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) who are staying at a farm in the Lake District and borrow a dinghy named Swallow to sail to an island in the lake near their home, which they name Wildcat Island. Their mother allows them to go and camp on the island and once there, they meet the Blackett Children (Nancy and Peggy) who sail in a dinghy named Amazon. They join forces against their common enemy, Captain Flint, who lives in a houseboat nearby.

Captain Flint is actually the Uncle of the Amazons, named Jim Turner. Normally, he's more of an ally to his nieces, but this summer, he's shutting himself away so he can attempt to write his memoirs and has become increasingly unfriendly to them. The Amazons go so far as to set off a firework on the houseboat roof, but it's the Swallows who get blamed for it- when John, the 'captain' of the Swallows goes to tell Jim that they had nothing to do with the firework on his houseboat and pass a warning they receive about burglars in the area, he doesn't listen to John and refuses to believe.

Joining forces with the Amazons, the children declare war against Captain Flint- but before they go to war, they have to determine who will lead the campaign, so they devise a contest between the two to see who can capture the others boat. This involves a dangerous crossing of the lake by night by the majority of the Swallows, which are cautioned against it by their mother, but they do it anyway. Titty, who stays behind to guard the island wins them the contest by capturing the Amazon, but also hears another boat go by- containing suspicious voices rowing from another nearby island. The next morning, while the Swallows celebrate their victory, it is revealed that Captain Flint's houseboat has been burgled. Turner initially blames the Walkers again, but is convinced of their innocence and realizes that he was wrong to distance himself from his nieces all summer. He apologizes to John for accusing him of being involved in the initial attack on his houseboat and agrees to give them one hell of a fight as 'Captain Flint' if they come to take his houseboat.

There's a mock battle between the children and Captain Flint the next day and the children take the houseboat, try him for his 'crimes' and make him walk the plank. Their conflict settled, they all agree to spend the next and final day of their holidays fishing and to have one final feast. Titty and Roger sail over to the nearby Cormorant Island (where Titty heard the mysterious voices coming from the night the Swallows captured the Amazon) in search of Captain Flint's missing trunk. She finds the trunk, the memoirs that Turner has been working on and is rewarded with custody of his green parrot.

A wild thunderstorm lets the know that the summer is over and it's time for them to head back to school. They sail back to their homes and both groups of children promise to see each other again, their adventures over- at least for now.

Overall, it's delightfully British. If you've read any Enid Blyton or any other 'adventure books' back in the day, then this will feel very familiar to you. I love that it's a throwback to a much simpler time when children had more freedom to explore and more importantly, to imagine adventures for themselves. It might feel a little dated against something like Harry Potter or more contemporary children's books, but it's still worth a read. Adventures are important for children of any age or era and Swallows and Amazons is a delightful reminder of the power of imagination and the magic of childhood. (Also: apparently it's a series of twelve books? That kind of blew my mind- so I guess there's more reading to do- even though my omnibus edition only contain Winter Holiday.) My Grade: **** out of ****

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