Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Coot Club

Listening to:

Béla Fleck, Sinister Minister.

Just read:

Arthur Ransome, Coot Club.

This novel is one of only two of Ransome’s novels that don’t feature the Walker family (John, Susan, Titty and Roger). Instead, Dick and Dot, who we met in Winter Holiday, are central, along with a new character, Tom Dudgeon. The only other character to earn any real definition is a Mrs. Barrable, a grown-up no less. The rest of the “gang” is three working class boys (boat-builders’ sons), and two twin girls (a lawyer’s daughters). The class signals are quite obvious, but these five don’t otherwise get to become real people.

The setting is different too: instead of being set in the Lake District, the book is set in the Norfolk Broads. It still features lots of messing about in boats. There is one important plot-arc to Coot Club: Tom casts a cruiser full of Hullabaloos loose because it’s moored on top of a coot’s nest, and the rest of the book centres on escaping them, and going on a big sailing expedition.

The drama of being chased by unpleasant and uncomprehending grown-ups moves the book along very effectively, all the way to an exciting finale. Dick and Dot are fun company, and all the characters get important and interesting things to do, even William, Mrs. Barrable’s pug dog.

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