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The Island Home   By:

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The Island Home, the Adventures of six Young Crusoes, by Richard Archer.

This book should be a bit more of a classic than it actually is. It is thought that Ballantyne used it as the inspiration for his famous "The Coral Island", for there is good evidence for it. In the 1830s the Washington left New York, the passengers including some of the young members of the owners' families and some of their friends. Destination Canton via the Straits of Magellan. Crossing the Pacific, they land on various of the islands, such as those in the Fiji and Kingsmill Groups. Sometimes they encountered particularly nasty inhabitants. One day they were on the beach of an island, when it became necessary for the Washington to up anchors and away, leaving the shore party with the ship's boat. Murders occur among the seamen. The boys set sail in the boat, hoping to regain contact with some vessel, but never do.

The rest of the book is a story of survival, and of the good humour of the boys. The real problem with the book is the long paragraphs of description which nowadays would be much shorter or omitted altogether, but it was written in the 1850s, and it was Ballantyne's luck that he was able to write a book along the same lines but far easier to read.

Still, it's worth a quick skim, if nothing more. Your reviewer has listened to the book several times, and enjoyed it each time.




"A wet sheet and a flowing sea, A breeze that follows fast, That fills the white and rustling sail, And bends the gallant mast. And bends the gallant mast, my boys, Our good ship sound and free, The hollow oak our palace is, Our heritage the sea."

It is now some twenty years ago, that the goodly ship Washington, commanded by Mr Erskine, left the port of New York, on a trading voyage to the East Indian archipelago. With a select few good seamen, the owners had also placed on board some youths of their own families and immediate connections.

Having passed through the Straits of Magellan in safety, they were then on their way to Canton, where the young men were to be settled; and meanwhile the ship was to visit any of the isles in the Pacific Ocean that lay in their path. After some little delay on the part of the captain among the numerous groups of isles, the purpose of the voyage was frustrated by the events narrated in the volume. The extreme beauty of the wild loveliness of nature that these islets exhibited, tempted the young men, accompanied by Mr Frazer, one of the officers, to land on one that presented great charms of scenery, as well as having a convenient and easily accessible landing place, and from that point the narrative commences.

It is not necessary for the elucidation of the narrative, to name more of the crew than those whose adventures are hereafter related by one of the party. The names of these castaways were John Browne, the son of a Glasgow merchant; William Morton, and Maximilian Adeler, of New York; Richard Archer, from Connecticut, the journalist; John Livingstone, from Massachusetts; Arthur Hamilton, whose parents had settled at Tahiti; and to them was joined Eiulo, prince of Tewa, in the South Seas.

The narrative commences from the time of the party landing, and although in some parts prolix and unequal, being evidently from an unpractised hand, it bears all the characteristics of a boyish mind, and thus to a certain extent confirms its genuineness. The sayings and doings of the young adventurers are recorded with the minuteness that to older heads seems tedious. This disposition to dwell upon, and to attach importance to things comparatively trivial, is peculiar to the youthful mind, and marks that period of freshness, joyousness, and inexperience, when every thing is new, and possesses the power to surprise and to interest... Continue reading book >>

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