Saturday, November 21, 2009

Captain Blood

"Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides, smoked a pipe and tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his window above Water Lane in the town of Bridgewater."

When we are first introduced to Peter Blood, he seems to be the last kind of man who would be destined to have some of the most fantastic adventures. But that is exactly where fate is leading him. He is about to be whisked away from his quiet life into a life of slavery, of piracy, and of romance.

Rafael Sabatini's 1922 classic Captain Blood made him an overnight success, and continues to delight young and old with the story of a man falsely accused who finds both freedom and revenge on the high seas.

The Plot:

After years of soldiering in Europe, Peter Blood has retired to quieter life as a small town doctor. Though he no longer concerns himself with politics, the times he is living do not allow for much neutrality. After the failure of the Monmouth Rebellion, Blood is accused of aiding a rebel and is sold into slavery in the West Indies along with many others. He is purchased by Colonel Bishop, a ruthless man who treats all of his slaves horribly. Because of his skill as a physician, Blood enjoys a slightly higher standard of living, including a budding relationship with Colonel Bishop's niece, Arabella.

During a raid on the island, Blood and many of the other rebels/slaves escape, but having nowhere to go, find safety and freedom in piracy. It is not long before Captain Blood is the most famous pirate in the Atlantic, becoming extremely wealthy off the booty of French, Spanish, and English ships. And though he is a pirate, Captain Blood is also a gentleman who treats his men and his victims gently and fairly. But there are many men who would like to see him swing from the yardarm (including Colonel Bishop and a Spanish Admiral) and he begins to realize that all the glory and wealth of piracy are nothing compared to a home and a love.

My Review (Caution-Spoiler):

There are few things that I like better than a swashbuckling adventure. And that is exactly what this story is. From beginning to end, Captain Blood is thrown into one hair-raising escapade after another, and we are along for every second of that thrilling ride.

The best part of this story is Captain Blood himself. As a character he is so vivid that he seems to leap right off of the page. He is dashing, vain, brave, handsome, intelligent, and extremely witty. All in all, he ranks right up there with Alan Breck Stewart of Kidnapped when it comes to unforgettable characters. In fact, Captain Blood is so vivid that other characters (hero and villain) tend to pale in comparison.

The writing itself is pretty quick-paced, with many wonderful moments in it. The relationship between Captain Blood and Arabella Bishop is an interesting one. It is a romance, but if you are looking for a romantic novel, this isn't it. The focus here is on the sword fights, the nautical battles and the ever changing politics of the time.

I really can't do justice to how great this book really is. So many fantastic scenes pop into my head every time I think about the novel, like when Colonel Bishop is forced to swim back to shore from his own ship, or when Don Diego is strapped to the mouth of a cannon, or when Colonel Bishop is introduced to the new Governor of Jamaica. This book is for fans of Robert Louis Stevenson or anyone else who enjoys adventure, pirates, and dashing leading men. Absolutely something that Everyone Must Read Before They Die!

The Movie:

Though you could say that movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean take many cues from Captain Blood (and they do), there is only one movie version of this classic novel so far.

That is the 1935 version starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. It follows the plot most of the time, though it is probably a bit more "romantic" the the novel. If anyone can get the swashbuckling side of Captain Blood, it's Errol Flynn. A fun, exciting, classic film that deserves to be watched. Check it out!

Trivia: Both Flynn and de Havilland were unknowns in Hollywood until Captain Blood made stars out of them. They would go on to be one of Hollywood's leading screen couples, making 8 films together.

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