In 1805, Sam Robbins, an eleven-year-old farm boy, is press-ganged into the Navy and finds himself on board Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. There, he must cope with rats, disgusting food, and a sadistic officer who is waiting for the chance to have him flogged. But there is kindness and fellowship on board as well as cruelty and hardship. Sam eventually becomes a ‘powder-monkey’, carrying gunpowder to fire the cannons and one of the ship’s most dangerous jobs. Meanwhile, Nelson is searching for the French Navy, a chase which will end in the bloody and decisive battle of Trafalgar where Sam has a pivotal part to play.
Sam’s story is intertwined with that of the 21st century Molly Jennings, who must leave her beloved London for the USA when her widowed mother marries an American. Like Sam, she too struggles against home-sickness and an alien lifestyle. Then she finds an old copy of Robert Southey’s Life of Nelson. Behind its split cover she discovers a hidden message and a precious relic of Nelson’s funeral, a scrap of the Victory‘s flag, which once belonged to Sam. Gradually, Molly realizes that Sam is trying to tell her something.
Victory has obviously been published in the slip-stream of the Trafalgar bi-centenary. I found it unputdownable. Susan Cooper has the gift of transporting her readers back in time to the sights, sounds and smells of life on board ship in Nelson’s navy and we become totally involved in Sam and Molly’s lives. The opening account of Nelson’s funeral moved me to tears ––on page 2! An author who can do that is good indeed. The history is impeccable, the writing top quality and the story-telling compelling. What more could one ask? Highly recommended. 11 plus. (EH)
This is a fabulous book. It has loads of action as well as excitement, thoughtfulness and sadness. Molly and Sam’s characters are very well done. Although there are no descriptions of them, the way they act gives you a very good idea of what they’re like. They don’t know each other because they live in different centuries, but they are connected by one man, Lord Nelson. However, later in the book you find out that Sam is Molly’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather, and that is a surprise. It has a very original plot and a beautiful ending where Molly takes her piece of Lord Nelson’s flag, puts it into the sea, and says, ‘To Daddy and to Sam Robbins’.
The book appeals to both boys and girls and is for 11-13 years as it has some very difficult words in it. If I could change anything it would be the blurb because it gives away part of the plot. A fantastic book and I highly recommend it. (RB)
Margaret K. McElderry