Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

So I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi this past Saturday. Jo got it out from the library.

It is a fast-paced story told in first person by the main character Charlotte Doyle. She is a thirteen year old girl who had lived in England most of her life although she was actually American. Her father had been an agent of a company to England, but he was just called back to America. He took the rest of his family with him and left Charlotte to finish her term at the boarding school she was attending. She is to join them in America later. That is the background.

A Mr. Grummage has charge of her until he gets her to the boat she is to go on. Unfortunately, the two families she was to travel with were unable to make it, and Charlotte finds herself the sole passenger on a large dirty ship. Her cabin is small and dirty and cockroaches crawl in her bunk.

Several of the sailors warn her to leave the ship before it sails, but she does not know what to do, so she stays.

As the story progresses, we find that the captain of the ship, Captain Jaggery, seems nice but is actually pretty cruel. The sailors have plotted a mutiny, but that fails due to Charlotte's interference. Later, she realizes how cruel the captain is, and joins the side of the sailors. To convince them how sorry she is for the accidental deaths of two of their mates, she dons sailor garb and learns how to work around the ship.

In the midst of a hurricane, the first mate is murdered. The Captain Jaggery accuses Charlotte. She stands trial and is condemned to be hung in twenty-four hours.

Obviously, she isn't, or else she wouldn't be telling the story. I shall not say how it is all resolved, as that might ruin the story. But everything is resolved before the end and they reach harbor at last.

But now Charlotte's mother and father refuse to believe her story, and force her to stay in her room reading solemn books until she is cured of such "nonsense". Charlotte can take no more and runs away to sea.

I found the journey across to be aggravating and exciting at the same time. Aggravating because I, as the reader, know the captain is bad, but Charlotte refuses to believe so at first. Then the story begins to feel like A Series of Unfortunate Events in that everything that can go wrong does. But exciting because one doesn't know how it will all resolve itself.

I disliked the ending because after finally resolving the trouble on the ship, it is not at all satisfying to have no one believe Charlotte about what happened.

The author drew a contrast between the rough but friendly sailors and the polished, refined, Bible-reading captain and the respectable, orderly parents of Charlotte. The captain was hypocritical and the parents almost so. The sailors on the other hand, although they lied and swore, respected the Bible much more that the captain did.

I am not altogether sure about the overall message, as it almost seemed to imply that it was better to be free and daring than orderly and respectable, but it may instead have been the author's intent show that it is better to be kind and loyal and fair rather than to be unjust and prejudiced.

It is a good exciting book, and I recommend it, though I give a word of caution. Don't stay up all night reading it, no matter how much you want to, or else you will not be able to get up in morning.