Friday, February 01, 2008

Regatta

First sentence: The man on the quay was old, but his hands were strong and sure.

Regatta (314 pages) by Libby Purves is a surprisingly great read. Frankly, I didn't expect much when I started reading but as I turned those pages, it became clear to me that Regatta is a page-turner.

The story's set in the fictitious town called Blythney in Suffolk. Anansi Cowper, an eleven-year old girl is the protagonist. She ends up in Blythney as a result of parental carelessness (her mother lands in the jail for drug dealing) and the council care places her under Sheila Harrison's wings. Sheila, a big and bubbly blonde lady has been taking in unfortunate children and organizing camps in her town. Anansi is the first child under her care who is not a toddler but a grown girl. And an angry one at that.

Anansi was abused when she was very young and was exposed to hard street life. The limp on her leg was a result of being kicked badly and not sent to the hospital for treatment. She never knew who did that to her, but her mother blames her estranged husband for the deed. Her mother never paid her any attention and never will. In fact, she thinks Anansi brings bad luck. The young girl's life is tough from the very beginning.

So when Anansi ends up in Blythney, she indirectly turns the town upside down. More so with her discovery and public revelation of Sheila's husband adultery at the old Martello Tower. Sheila's youngest son Douai dislikes Anansi and now he loathes her even more. In the midst of chaos, an old ex-military man known as Harry, also Sheila's uncle, befriends the young girl. He is determined that the hardened Anansi is teachable and can be a pleasing girl. He is the man described in the 'first sentence' in this entry. He teaches Anansi how to sail and tells her stories from his military days.

This is an engrossing story about childhood, courage and reconciliation. The story is in no way simple and even though complex (human relations are always so), it is beautifully told. The characters are appealing and I can feel their pain through the stages of life that they are going through. Nothing is ever smooth sailing especially in marriage but at the end of the day love, friendship and forgiveness overcomes. I couldn't stop reading when the girl who was once bullied for not knowing how to sail, performs a life-saving deed. I love the ending. Strong plot. I have enjoyed it tremendously.