This Wonderful Year
Mark Benno’s cheerful, delightful throwback of a novel is subtitled The Adventures of Mister Edward Pamprill, and that is exactly what Benno’s readers get in the ensuing pages. Young and slightly supercilious Edward Pamprill is on his way to his friend Jeremy Rampton’s Honeymoon Masquerade (which “surpassed in debauchery all but the most Bacchanalian of soirees”) when he’s pressed into very unwilling service aboard His Majesty’s vessel Atlantis through the conniving of his unscrupulous father, Baron Pamprill. Where young Edward had expected to be “pillowed upon the breast of Venus, hours away from a petite breakfast served by an attentive Gibson, immediately followed by a shave made more fragrant with lavender-scented water,” he’s instead thrown into an unbroken series of adventures in the Nelson-era navy that would have exhausted such fictional compatriots as Peter Simple or Horatio Hornblower, all narrated by Benno with zest and considerable talent. There are storms, raids, hand-to-hand combat, and since the year is 1805, we also hear rumblings of the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. And through it all, as is customary in this type of novel, Edward proves his mettle in ways he never could have as a pampered baron’s heir back home. Readers shouldn’t be put off by the incomprehensible cover design; beyond it lies a treasure of a novel. Highly recommended.