'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 22 December 2019

Review: Pirate Boy of Sydney Town

Ben’s home, Badger’s Hill, has been in his mother’s family for 600 years. Now his father has lost it after the mortgage to finance his shipping ventures is called in.  Drowning in gambling debts, Father, interested only in money and indifferent to his wife and son’s needs, already has a new venture planned. 

Under the ruse of a voyage to Port Jackson carrying convicts, he intends to intercept and capture a Dutch ship and its gold cargo. Father convinces Ben to accompany him with his dreams of wealth. It’s the boy’s dreams of buying back Badger’s Hill that motivate him to accept his father’s proposal.

On the journey, typhoid takes the lives of his mother and half the crew of the Golden Girl which now has to sit off Sydney Harbour, waiting for a spare pilot to manoeuvre her through the treacherous rocks to safety.

Ben saves the shrewd convict Higgins from below deck who becomes his father’s servant. Higgins is a survivor, and Ben cannot take his measure. But unexpected happenings on the voyage show Ben’s measure. While experiencing the greatest adventure of his life, Ben is forced into a fight for survival with mutineers and slave traders as he finally finds the father he’s always longed for.

The Author’s Notes enrich the contents. They offer a background of specific historical references that are built into the story, including little-known facts about Indigenous sailors and the various dialects they used to communicate, and the lucrative slave trade that existed at the time. 

This is a scintillating read from Australia’s most prolific writer, Jackie French. The novel is fiction, based on real events. It is full of vivid scenes filled with swashbuckling action, tension and twists and turns, and laced with romantic innuendo. Themes stringed together address corruption, the shallowness of humanity, but also its glowing spontaneity and richness of spirit.

Title: Pirate Boy of Sydney Town
Author: Jackie French
Publisher: Harper Collins, $16.99
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781460754795
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction