Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

captain cooks apprenticeTitle: Captain Cook’s Apprentice

Author: Anthony Hill

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin-Viking

Published: 2nd July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 290

Price: $32.99

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.

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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.

 

Booktopia

The Odditorium by David Bramwell and Jo Keeling

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Title: The Odditorium

Author: David Bramwell and Jo Keeling

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th October, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: THE ODDITORIUM is a playful re-telling of history, told not through the lens of its victors, but through the fascinating stories of a wealth of individuals who, while lesser-known, are no less remarkable.

Throughout its pages you’ll learn about the antics and adventures of tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors. While their stories range from heroic failures to great hoaxes, one thing unites them – they all carved their own path through life. Each protagonist exemplifies the human spirit through their dogged determination, willingness to take risks, their unflinching obsession and, often, a good dollop of eccentricity.

Learn about Reginald Bray (1879-1939), a Victorian accountant who sent over 30,000 singular objects through the mail, including himself; Cyril Hoskin (1910-1981), a Cornish plumber who reinvented himself as a Tibetan lama and went on to sell over a million books; and Elaine Morgan (1920-2013), a journalist who battled a tirade of prejudice to pursue an aquatic-based theory of human evolution, which is today being championed by David Attenborough.

Elsewhere, we uncover the lesser-known obsessions of such historical giants as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726), whose beloved alchemy led to a lifetime’s search for the philosopher’s stone and elixir of life; and philosopher Ren Descartes (1596-1650), whose obsession with cross-eyed ladies led him to seek a ‘cure’ through the first recorded case of CBT.

While many of us are content to lead a conventional life, with all of its comfort and security, THE ODDITORIUM reminds us of the characters who felt compelled to carve their own path, despite risking ostracism, failure, ridicule and madness. While history wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Shakespeare, Caesar and Einstein, it is when curiosity and compulsion meet that conventions are challenged, culture is re-invigorated and we find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.

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The Odditorium is the sort of book that can spark the imagination and provoke thought through the names and their achievements within the pages. Filled with unknown names in the world of invention, of discovery, of the mind and other areas, this book brings to life some of the strangest people and what they did, but also, positions them within their historical context and in some cases, such as the entry on Joseph Campbell, creator of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and the archetype of the hero’s journey that has been played out in movies and literature forever, or the extremely odd, such as Reginald Bray, who sent a multitude of objects through the mail, including himself. Some of these entries are amusing, and leave the reader wondering what possessed the person to do what they did, to the little known names such as Elaine Morgan, who battled prejudice to pursue her theory of aquatic based human evolution – something best known today through Sir David Attenborough.

 

The characters within these pages – the odd, the outsiders, the ones who just wanted to make a mark on the world, bring a part of history to life that may not always be found in history books. Whether ignored because of prejudice or merely seen as too strange for “the norm”, these characters, these people, have still contributed to the world as we know it, and their stories are well worth knowing.

 

An intriguing read that can spark the imagination, and leave the reader wanting to know more about these strange yet fascinating people.