Last week the Cornish coast was lashed by storms.
I was tucked up at home with a book, with waves outside crashing against the sea wall and being forced up over the promenade and the road. Our garden was soaked by the spray and the downstairs windows got a salt water rinse.
It’s a marvellous sight when you’re inside, secure in the knowledge that your home has withstood a multitude of storms over a hundred years and more.
And in the pages of my book two children looked out on a similar storm.
Ethan and Cathy were home alone, in an inn on the edge of a Cornish cliff. They had been sick and their widowed father had set out through the storm to fetch the doctor. After he left they felt better and got up to watch out for his return. But the man who appeared outside was not their father, but a young sailor.
Where had he come from? What was he doing out on such a night?
While Ethan hesitated Cathy granted the man admission to the inn. And they stuck a bargain. The man, Thackery, would be given refreshment and shelter from the storm, and in exchange he would tell the children stories of the sea.
Wonderful stories! Filled with all of the traditional elements of sea stories yet fresh and new. Each one simple,clear and engaging – and holding a striking twist.
Favorites? A compelling tale where the ship’s cat plays a central role. The story of two sailors who visit a tattoo parlour in a foreign port with extraordinary consequences. And, for me, the most haunting tale told of a child picked up from a small boat adrift.
And as the stories unfold Ethan begins to wonder where his father is and why Thackery has come. Ethan asks questions. Thackery tells no more than he wants to, and deflects attention by offering up more stories.
Until the final tale, which explains everything, twisting, not just once, but twice.
Everything is executed just perfectly – the words of Chris Priestley and the illustrations of David Roberts.
Yes, the format is the same as their previous work, Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, but it works. This volume is distinctive enough to stand up in its own right and just that little bit more sophisticated than its predecessor.
Perfect reading for the season – and I look forward to the next volume!