Author: Colin Falconer
Type of book: 1629, Dutch, shipwreck, survival, prisoners, opportunist, Australia, priorities, honor, taking advantage, water, food, wealth, society, lawlessness, experiment, murder, mutiny, rape
Year it was published: 2014
In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.
He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.
But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.
As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.
He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’
But can he keep it?
Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.
The main characters include Cornelia, a lady of wealth that is ostracized because of it. She does what she can in the situation that's allowed to her. She is resourceful, kind-hearted and learns quickly that wealth means nothing when you're stranded at the end of the world. Ambroise is a captain who seems to have a lot going for him and does the best he can as well. He is not good when it comes to pressure. Christian is an apothecary as well as the Under-merchant and is best described as double faced and an opportunist. He's the type that will betray others to save his own neck. Michiel van Trexel is honorable and a real leader in trying to keep order. He comforts Cornelia and worries more about her then about himself.
One thing that I got out is that hell is man-made, not divinely inspired.
The book is written in third person narrative from Cornelia's, Ambroise's, Christian's, and Michiel's points of view. The author does warn when point of view changes. Very often some of the characters are referred by their nautical titles, such as Ambroise is referred to as Commadeur, and Christian as Heer Undermerchant. Some of others are also referred by names and/or titles which made it confusing for me on keeping track of who's who. Still the story becomes very addictive and I couldn't wait to see what happens next.
(From historical fiction virtual book tour)
I only got introduced to Colin Falconer earlier this year through a book titled Naked in Havana, which had a Scarlet O'Hara like heroine. One thing that surprised me was the book size. Naked in Havana was probably a 100 or so pages, give or take, while East India is over 300 pages. In beginning, although I sort of got what was going on, I felt it was a bit slow, not to mention the chapters were pretty short, and I constantly checked on who should have been Cornelia's love interest. However, once the boat gets stranded, the pages really flew out of my hands. I did wish that I would have read this book when I was in high school instead of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and yes, I'm being serious. I couldn't stand Lord of the Flies and found Lord of the flies boring. Instead this book is geared towards both genders because it does have adventure, love, mutiny, survival on the island, men of honor and dishonor and I feel that it opens up a door to conversations on the background of history as well as why certain characters behaved the way they did.
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(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)