Classics Review: Peter Simple

Peter Simple by Frederick Marryat
Peter Simple (Heart of Oak Sea Classics Series) 
by Frederick Marryat

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Young Peter Simple is given a place aboard ship as a midshipman, and he tells us his adventures on the high seas. He distinguishes himself in battle, earning the respect and admiration of his fellow officers. He is shipwrecked, imprisoned, and somehow manages to fall in love in the middle of it all. Peter meets a variety of interesting characters all over the world, who play a part in his epic story.

The plot is full of action and intrigue, betrayal and sneaking plots, raging storms and bloody battles, and of course a little romance. I love the setting of the British frigates cruising through the West Indies looking for trouble with the French.

The politics of a warship, and the little rivalries between officers make the story even more dramatic.

I especially liked the concept of “honor” and “chivalry” between the French and British officers. Often prisoners (mostly officers) would be “put on parole”, where a prisoner gives his word of honor that he will not try to escape, so he is set at liberty to roam around town, and told to report to the jail in a few weeks. These men had such a high sense of honor that they would not even take a chance of escaping if it meant besmirching their integrity. I love these high ideals!

Peter is painfully naive at the beginning of the book, earning the double meaning of his “Simple” surname. He is foolish and silly and ignorant of the ways of the world, but he begins to grow and learn and becomes a little more wary. However, despite his loss of childish innocence, he never loses his gentle heart, his generosity, and solid sense of fairness. He rises to meet every challenge with vigor and honesty.
He thoroughly embarrasses himself in the beginning, but gradually you see him develop into a strong man, a wise officer, and a capable gentleman. The best part of this book was that beautiful character development! I adore Peter from start to finish!

I really loved the friendship between Peter and O’Brien, and how they stick together through thick and thin. Their loyal friendship is one of the pillars of this book, and a strong emotional force to draw the reader into the story.

The ending was very rushed, suddenly throwing things together in about 15 pages. The story definitely could have used a little more denouement.

Minor spoilers with no names mentioned:
The ending was hurried and slapdash with ridiculously convenient circumstances resolving each difficulty all at once.
One of the villains conveniently dies in an accident at the last second, and another villain is killed in a duel… conveniently… at the last second. After years of separation, the major love interest just happens to show up in England…. conveniently… at the right time.
The long-lost relative that no one can find, who has disappeared without a trace just happens to be at the theater the same night that Peter just happens to go to the theater…. conveniently…. at the right theater.
That woman who was needed as a witness at the trial just happens to come back from years and years in India… conveniently… just before the trial.

All of this happens in the last 15 pages!! It’s a bit too much. The ending needed more finesse, but the rest of the book is wonderful!

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