The Riddle of the Sands
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Two young Englishmen, messing about in boats, notice some suspicious German naval activities -- and are drawn into a world of intrigue and excitement!
A fascinating nautical adventure full of mystery and intrigue.
Written in 1903, this is one of the greatest yachting adventure stories of all time. Additionally it is a darn good mystery. The story's charm comes from the interaction of two quintessentially English men who were once school chums -- the aristocratic Carruthers, who serves as narrator and secondary protagonist, and the shy, eccentric Davies, whose obsessive desire to check out a hunch sets them on an epic quest. The story's power comes from the North Sea, whose 12-foot tides and wild storms have carved out a unique marine landscape between the Friesian barrier islands and the Dutch and northern German coast. A silty body of mostly shallow water at high tide, a mostly walkable expanse ravine-scarred mudflats at low tide, and an astonishing spectacle of slow and fast-moving water when the tide is changing, this hybrid land- and seascape is, indeed, a riddle of the sands.
The novel is a rich amalgam of intrigue and adventure, which opens the readers eyes to a landscape/seascape which few have seen. And it plays out against the gathering storm clouds of war. A fascinating nautical adventure full of mystery and intrigue.
The tale becomes more and more gripping
Two stories run side by side: the riddle of the title, concerning an unknown threat to England, and the redemption of a feckless civil servant named - naturally - Carruthers. The setting is lovely; the life aboard ship is vividly described; the author never leaves important details vague. The story gets gradually faster, and as the adventure of the heroes slowly gets near to the core of the plot, the tale becomes more and more gripping.
The best of the invasion literature genre
At the zenith of England's power in the early years of the 20th century, the British developed a sense of insecurity that verged on paranoia. As mighty as their industrial or economic power may have been, as global as their dominions and colonies may have stretched, they nevertheless felt most vulnerable at home. There was a conspirator around ever corner, and a plan of conquest on the chart table in every foreign Admiralty. This angst fueled an entire genre of spy novel literature centered around a common theme, where the antagonists could be a different villain every time but their evil purpose was always the same.
Among this genre Erskine Childers reigned supreme, and his work spawned an entirely new and authentic narrative style. This is the thinking man's thriller, with a penchant for detail and concomitant duplicity and intrigue that authors like John Carre would ultimately master in another (atomic) age describing many of the same phobias. Childers's language, however, is far from everyman's prose. The dictionary in your e-reader will strain to find definitions that were in common usage in the 19th century, but have since fallen into disuse. This can make for difficult going. Much of the vocabulary has a deliberately florid feel, and bears a reference to more than one of Shakespeare's plays, but this is in part because the narrator of the story is clearly a man of education who works in that part of the British Government where careers are usually based as much on birthright as on ability and guile. His position in life effectively validates the authenticity of his tale. Any more prosaic prose would have caused the story to founder in shallow waters.
There is little violence and only a discreet reference, in an appropriately puritanical Edwardian sense, of any fleshly delight. This is also a maritime thriller, with lots of nautical argot and minutia employed. Patrick O'Brien would be pleased with some of the detail and navigation references, and Thomas Mann would have enjoyed some of the lengthier paragraphs, but if you want to feel as if you have salt in your hair or mud on your boots, and that you have thoroughly explored the estuaries and flatlands of the Continental European countries along the North Sea, then "The Riddle of the Sands" is your best transport and is an eerie portent of a world that will soon be thrashing at war with industrial efficiency.
- Category: Mysteries & Thrillers
- Published: Feb 08, 2012
- Publisher: Lulu.com
- Seller: Lulu Enterprises, Inc.
- Print Length: 434 Pages
- Language: English