I haven’t been listening to the current book on Forgotten Classics, but I did enjoy the previous one.
I had certainly heard of Childers before Julie read this book, but hadn’t read anything of his; I hadn’t realised he pioneered the spy novel like this. Since I don’t think she’d mentioned it I’d forgotten that he ended up an Irish nationalist, and hadn’t realised until I just read the Wikipedia article linked above just how complicated his allegiences to Britain and Ireland were. I might have to look for a decent biography of the man.
What Julie did explain in some detail was the political relevance and then impact the novel had on British Naval and other military preparations for the (then potential) upcoming conflicts with Germany, which really wasn’t very far away by sea. (RofS was first published in 1903.) While there’s certainly a clear message coming across about the value and importance of covert knowledge of what’s going on in other nations (especially enemies or possible ones) at a time when spying was seen as underhand and not something for gentlemen to take part in, the story is not lacking, and most of the characters come across well.
As someone who’s done a fair bit of sailing (all but one voyage in dinghies, however, although that voyage was aboard the Asgard II, the Irish sail training vessel actually named after Erskine’s own Asgard) I quite enjoyed and appreciated the technical details, although apparently some just saw that as a bit of a necessary evil. I do have to wonder how much of the same geographical and sailing knowledge Childers displays in this book is what he used when gun-running in Asgard…
- ‘The Riddle of the Sands’: the first modern spy novel is still one of the best (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The moment Britain became an island (bbc.co.uk)
- November 24 in history (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- Gifts of Water (kaet.wordpress.com)