Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

“The high seas of literature are unprotected, and those who traffic in them must run their chance of being plundered.”

I really don’t know where to start with my review of this fantastic novel, and I can only hope that I do the book justice. Firstly, I’m sure some of you may be wondering what a bookaneer even is! A bookaneer is a literary pirate who steals unpublished manuscripts by famous authors in order to spirit them to eager audiences, for a profit of course. 

In this tale, laws are about to come into effect which will render bookaneers extinct so to speak. Rumours begin to circulate of a new masterpiece about to come into existence courtesy of celebrated author Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Two rival bookaneers embark on a journey to Stevenson’s home in Samoa to try and secure the last big score available in their profession before the law turns against them. The two big bookaneers that go head to head are fascinating in their own right, and from their experiences we learn about their shady occupation and the paths that took them there. 

There is the wily chameleon Penrose Davenport with a coloured past that haunts him versus the devious and arrogant Belial. Accompanying Davenport is humble bookseller and bookaneer chronicler (of sorts) Edgar Fergins who is the principle storyteller in this book and a very intriguing character in his own right. 

Once the game has been set and the principle players set of to Samoa, the reader is fully immersed into the journey, from the turbulent ship voyage to arrival in the tropical climes of Samoa. I love travel myself, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the setting with the wild islands and native culture. Whilst reading I could almost smell the sea and feel the heat, which made me feel involved in the storyline. 

As a booklover, I loved the name drops of countless authors and great works of literature in the storyline. Of Robert Louis Stevenson I’ve read Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and more recently Kidnapped, so I found it fascinating to read a little more of the man behind the stories, if only fictionally. The story as a whole is exciting but towards the latter part, as secrets and truths come to light things really kicks up a notch and becomes even more thrilling. 

This book has so many brilliant facets to it; literature, travel, history and pirates (kind of), and is so cleverly woven together into such an accomplished story, that I just can’t recommend enough. For an intelligent escapist read, The Last Bookaneer should be a top choice. 

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