Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini is an exciting adventure story which begins around 1685 when King James II was on the throne of England.
Peter Blood was a thirty-two year old Irish physician who had taken service with the Dutch under the great admiral de Ruyter and fought against France. He spent two years in a Spanish prison and later served with the French in their wars against the Spanish Netherlands.
As the story opens, he was in England working as a doctor, when an attempt was made by the Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter) to overthrow James II after Charles’ death.
Blood watched the men of the town as they rallied under Monmouth’s banner head off to what he knew would be ignominious defeat. It was no concern to him and that night he went to bed early and didn’t wake until 4 a.m. with the sound of hammering on his door.
Blood was called urgently to treat a young nobleman wounded in the rebellion during the night; a man who had been a friendly and generous patron to him and to whom he felt indebted.
This act of mercy was to change his life.
Two months later Blood was brought to trial on a charge of high treason before the infamous Judge Jeffreys. Narrowly escaping the gallows, Blood was sentenced to ten years of slavery in Barbados.
At the first opportunity that presented itself, he devised a means of escaping with a group of slaves. This made a life of piracy their only option.
What follows is a colourful, high spirited tale involving romance, piracy and a good dose of historical detail.
Captain Blood engaged me from the very first page and never let up with its twists and knife edge escapades. He is a very likeable character, who, despite being involved in piracy, is a man of moral character – you’ll have to read the book to understand this paradox.
Swashbuckling it definitely is. Sabatini was an exceptional writer and it is not surprising that this book quickly became a best-seller after it was published and is still in print.
I was looking through the ‘Old Favourites’ section of a Lifeline book-sale a couple of years ago and an elderly man asked me if I’d seen any books by Rafael Sabatini and explained how wonderful they were. I’d only read Scaramouche so I’ve kept a lookout ever afterwards and picked up a few of his books.
Captain Blood has been reprinted by Dover Publications; they price their books well but they’re not really robust which is a problem when you have a book like this that demands to be read by everyone in the family.
Highly recommended for teen readers or anyone who likes a ripper of an adventure story based on historical events.
Fortunately, Sabatini was a prolific author and his books are available on Kindle quite cheaply.
‘…in the Caribbean, the Spanish Admiral Don Miguel de Espinosa might be said – to use a term not yet invented in his day – to have run amok. The disgrace into which he had fallen as a result of the disasters suffered at the hands of Captain Blood had driven the Admiral all but mad. It is impossible, if we impose our minds impartially, to withhold a certain sympathy from Don Miguel. Hate was now this unfortunate man’s daily bread, and the hope of vengeance an obsession to his mind. As a madman he went raging up and down the Caribbean seeking his enemy, and in the meantime, as an hors-d’oeuvre to his vindictive appetite, he fell upon any ship of England or of France that loomed above his horizon.’