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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

"Missee Lee" by Arthur Ransome

 A Swallows and Amazons adventure that hasn't aged well. The usual heroes (Nancy, Peggy, John, Susan, Titty and Roger) are sailing the Wild Cat around the world with Captain Flint when they are shipwrecked and captured by Chinese pirates led by a Cambridge-educated wannabe Latin teacher called Missee Lee. 

As an adventure story it is full of drama from the shipwreck at the start to the thrilling escape at the end. But the ever-present threat of decapitation is rather weakened (perhaps necessarily so for a children's story) by the repeated failure of the children, especially Nancy, to take it seriously. 

Nowadays the main objection will be to the stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese characters (not one of them can pronounce the letter 'r') although each of the principal villains is a rounded character: I loved Chang the bird-fancier and the grumpy Amah. There is some consolation in that although Susan is the ultimate stereotypical girl (a housewife in the making) both Nancy and Missee Lee are very strong females. 

And it has a very colonialist assumption. It was written in 1941.

This book, along with Peter Duck, are fantasy yarns which don't really belong in the S&A canon proper and could easily be omitted.

Regular readers of this book will know how I detest foreign languages being used without translation. A key plot point revolves around a Latin verse which is untranslated: 'His liber est meus, testis est deus si quis foretur per collum pendetur' which I think means 'This book is mine: as God is my witness whoever should steal it will be hanged by the neck.'  Furthermore, one of the Chinese characters speaks pidgin and repeatedly uses the phrase 'speakee English bimeby' which had me flummoxed untiol a google search suggested that 'bimeby' might mean 'bye and bye' so the translation would be something in the region of 'you will be able to speak English to someone soon'.

This review was written by

the author of Motherdarling 

and The Kids of God

The Swallows and Amazon series contained twelve books:
  • Swallows and Amazons: Children camping on an island in a lake have sailing based adventures
  • Swallowdale: More sailing adventures are threatened when the Swallow sinks
  • Peter Duck: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint sail on a big yacht into the Caribbean in search of pirate treasure; pirates pursue
  • Winter Holiday: the lake freezes allowing a sledge-based expedition to the 'north pole'; the 'D's are introduced
  • Coot Club: The Ds join the Death and Glory kids in the Norfolk Broads but the excitement is just as great when birds have to be protected from rowdies.
  • We Didn't Mean to go to Sea: The Swallows accidentally find themselves at sea in a yacht they scarcely know: for my money this is the most dramatic and exciting book of the series.
  • Secret Water: The Swallows are joined by the Amazons in an expedition to map some tidal mud-flats
  • The Big Six: The Death and Glory kids have to be cleared of accusations of crime; the Ds help.
  • Missee Lee: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint are shipwrecked near China and captured by a lady Chinese pirate with a taste for Latin.
  • Pigeon Post: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds search for gold in the hills above the Lake; one of my favourites
  • The Picts and the Martyrs: The Ds have to hide in the hills when the Great Aunt comes to stay with the Amazons
  • Great Northern: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds and Captain Flint are protecting birds in the far north of Scotland

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