So Near So Far

Written by C. Northcote Parkinson
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

For Captain Richard Delancey, his triumph at taking a French prize is mingled with misfortune. Peace has been declared. Conflict has become personal in the form of Captain Charbonnier, who wants his ship back. Driven by financial need, Delancey forms a bold scheme to trick the madman. In the first chapter of So Near So Far, C. Northcote Parkinson proves a master story-teller. In Chapter 2, he mixes the chemistry of romantic entanglements into something amusing and a pleasure to read.

This is good writing: periodic sentences that land squarely on point and build to paragraphs which progress to pages. Witty dialog reveals logic and emotion in the psychology of characters who socialize and win our sympathy. The panorama extends from ladies in the drawing room, to the Lords of the Admiralty, to the shore action of a midshipman. The reader can gain valuable insight about war and espionage.

The author shares many a profound truth. At a French staff meeting, a Colonel admits, “I seldom read history. After my years on the staff I know that the truth will never be told about anything, and if it were told, nobody would believe it.” The dashing hero Delancey would agree with him. He falsifies his reports when expedient.

One quibble is that the arc of the story resolves the romantic subplot too soon, leaving the explosive conflict for the theatre of war. A classic of naval fiction has found its way into reprint.