My Beautiful Imperial

Written by Rhiannon Lewis
Review by Jeffrey Manton

My Beautiful Imperialis the tale of a young man, driven from his home, who becomes the captain of a great passenger ship that works the South American line and becomes involved in the battles of a revolution and responsibilities beyond his age. Then his beautiful boat is commandeered.

This is a breathtaking story in terms of ingenuity, and based on fact, placing us in the 19thcentury and taking us from Wales to Chile. The descriptions of Welsh rural life and Chile are captivating, but above all the depictions of the gleaming boat and its passengers are wonderfully portrayed. Davy is an engaging character who is thrown out by his mother after heartbreaking events at home and follows his father’s footsteps in going to sea. His growth to command and learning navigation, men, and climbing the social ladder drive us along, and then all his skills come together when his boat is commandeered. There are good guys and bad guys: there is a love interest in Estelle, the clever doctor’s daughter, who married a rich man and now finds herself trapped until she nurses Davy from sickness. The two of them become attracted in the confines of local society. Read this for a slice of history.

It is quite a slice, though—a slab in some ways—and could have done with a severe edit and more discipline in signposting the reader to a plot. There are short chapters and then long chapters, and here and there you may get lost in that broad narrative looking for the plot. My Beautiful Imperialhas all the basics of a great novel, but was sometimes all too much for this simple soul.