Title: Captain Cook’s Apprentice
Author: Anthony Hill
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2nd July 2018
Synopsis: The enthralling story of Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia, as seen through the eager eyes of a cabin boy.
When young Isaac Manley sailed on the Endeavour from England in 1768, no one on board knew if a mysterious southern continent existed in the vast Pacific Ocean. It would be a voyage full of uncertainties and terrors.
During the course of the three-year journey, Isaac’s eyes are opened to all the brutal realities of life at sea – floggings, storms, press-gangs, the deaths of fellow crewmen, and violent clashes on distant shores.
Yet Isaac also experiences the tropical beauty of Tahiti, where he becomes enchanted with a beautiful Tahitian girl. He sees the wonders of New Zealand, and he is there when the men of Endeavour first glimpse the east coast of Australia, anchor in Botany Bay, and run aground on the Great Barrier Reef.
Acclaimed and award-winning historical novelist Anthony Hill brings to life this landmark voyage with warmth, insight and vivid detail in this exciting and enlightening tale of adventure and discovery.
250 years ago, Captain Cook, on the Endeavour, set out on the journey that would lead to his discovery for the British of the East Coast of Australia, and several Pacific nations, and mapping the Pacific region as he went. He was accompanied by a vast crew, including a young boy who would become his apprentice on the journey and rise through the ranks – Isaac Manley. Through Isaac’s eyes, the voyage that begins in 1768, to explore the Pacific and find out if the mysterious southern continent existed.
On their journey, they would stop in Tahiti, New Zealand and Batavia in the Dutch East Indies – now known as Jakarta, and encountered the indigenous people of these lands, whose reactions varied – to Cook and his crew, the Tahitians in the novel were welcoming, whereas other islands and people met them with more hostility and wariness as they approached and mapped the islands. As the novel is set in the eighteenth century, Anthony Hill has done an exceptional job of balancing attitudes of the eighteenth century, the mythos surrounding Captain Cook as what Hill says in his Author’s Note as a great and humane navigator – illustrated by the way Cook is seen to interact with locals on the islands through Isaac’s eyes, and the way the local populations of the islands Cook discovered for England. This balance is not always easy to achieve, but Hill has done it in an educational and authentic way, ensuring the complexity of this history is revealed.
Though this book is fictional, it has a nice balance of fiction and fact, the imagined based on research, and seamless insertion of facts into the narrative, that read almost as non-fiction but that work equally well in the fictional setting of the book. In Isaac’s world, he is discovering lands previously unknown to England, and encountering people he never thought he would ever meet or know about.
The focus of the novel is the voyage, and what happened, rather than the implications and impacts of colonialism on Indigenous populations. However, Hill does hint at this through the actions of Cook and his men, and a few incidents that are the result of cultural misunderstandings, and how each group sees the world. It is an interesting look into the voyage that led Captain Cook to circumnavigate the east coast of what became known as Australia – called at the time of the voyage Terra Australis Incognito due to the crew being unsure if the land existed, and what happened on this voyage.