Book Review: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (Four Stars)


Book Review: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

(Four Stars)

“Why, what’s to fear?” he said. “It’s a Christian country, this, and Christian men do not make war upon the wounded, nor upon those who harbour them.” He still had, you see, illusions about Christians.

Enjoyable old-fashioned sea opera. Better, if more simply, developed than many more modern adventure novels. Written in 1922, Captain Blood spawned a generation of swashbuckling copies and movies.

“The wise thing’d be to hang him, along o’ all the rest.”
“It is not human to be wise,” said Blood. “It is much more human to err, though perhaps exceptional to err on the side of mercy. We’ll be exceptional.”

Composing as if a historian, even to the point of referring to and evaluating source documents, Sabatini sets a fast pace and seldom slows. Sabatini blends in late seventeenth century politics, social mores, and international relations. He is mostly true to the existing geography and power balance in the Caribbean.

“I have had no lack of experiences of this mortal life; but to be bought and sold was a new one, and I was hardly in the mood to love my purchaser.”

Deals frankly with the horror of the slave trade and role of blacks in the European outposts in the West Indies. Modern readers may be surprised to learn that many Europeans were sent to the sugar plantations and worked to death just as were Native Americans and African.

“Are you not Spanish, then?”
“You flatter my Castilian accent. I have the honour to be Irish. You were thinking that a miracle had happened. So it has—a miracle wrought by my genius, which is considerable.”

Minor quibble about Blood’s crew always out sailing, out shooting, and out maneuvering the opposition. Even so, Blood can’t get an even break; often he is his own nemesis.

“Each of us carries in himself a standard by which to measure his neighbour.”

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