Jersey: Secrets of the Sea

Written by Paul Darroch
Review by Viktor Steiner

You don’t need to have a special relationship with Jersey to truly appreciate these remarkable cameos of Jersey folk from various epochs, who left a mark on history. But if St. Ouen’s Bay, Mont Orgueil Castle and The Howard Davis Park mean anything to you, this book is even more inspiring.

Darroch alternates historical background information with realistic first-person narrative, conveying with skill both the tension of the situations and the moods of the key players. We follow in awe the changing fortunes of Sir Walter Raleigh; we are dumbfounded at the success of Charles Robin’s cod enterprise in Canada and Tom Davis’ pauper-to-millionaire business ventures; we gasp for breath during Elinor and Lucy’s shipwrecks, but join in the elite lifestyles of the crème de la crème when they prosper.

The book is structured in four seasons, representing different historical eras. The first episodes are ancient legends of extravagance and audacity, retold as parables highlighting the inevitable downfall of the malefactors. Summer introduces us to the colonial period of exploration and conquest. Three unique women feature in the Autumn section, with stories of extraordinary luck, pioneering faith, and artistic audacity. Winter then takes us to the 20th century, the tragic loss of life as the Titanic sinks and the gloom of world wars, in which Jerseymen and the island itself feature large.

The book is very readable; a minor deficiency is the occasional inappropriate change of tense in the narrative.