Originally published on the The Old Salt Blog
Linda Collison's recently released Barbados Bound, begins provocatively, "I came aboard with the prostitutes the night before the ship sail."
The year is 1760 and not yet 17 year old Patricia Kelley is, quite literally, seeking to find her place in the world. The illegitimate daughter of a West Indies plantation owner, attending an English boarding school, she finds herself without money, family or connections when her father dies suddenly. With a head full of dreams of reclaiming the plantation where she was born and largely raised, that her father promised to her as a dowry, she stows away aboard a merchant ship carrying gunpowder and military stores, bound for Barbados. She has much to learn of the world and her education is just beginning.
Discovered and befriended by a young gunner's mate, Patricia initially avoids detection as a stowaway by coming on deck only at night and in sailor's clothes. Tall and lanky, she learns that she can pass as man, if need be, a discovery which will later prove invaluable. When discovered as a stowaway, she avoids being put ashore at the next port by agreeing to work as a loblolly, an assistant to the ship's surgeon. As a proper lady, it is not a job she would prefer but in exchange for passage she agrees.
Patricia is to become a surgeon's mate in more senses than one. When her chimerical dreams of plantation ownership vanish, she agrees to a marriage of necessity to the older Scottish ship's doctor. In a personal, and often brutal, voyage of discovery, Patricia comes to know the horrors of yellow fever in British military camps, as well as the nightmarish conditions aboard a Royal Navy hospital ship. She will survive fire, shipwreck, fever, and battles at sea and ashore. She will, ultimately, be forced to leave Patricia behind, to become known as Patrick.
Linda Collison brings just the right experience to Barbados Bound. In addition to the necessary historical research, she knows both the nautical and medical sides to her tale. Having sailed across the Pacific on a replica of Captain James Cook's HMS Endeavour, Collison understands the technical aspects of the rigging as well as the the sights, sound and smells of sailing on a square rigged ship. She is also a trained nurse, so the descriptions of the medical scenes are suitably vivid and no doubt accurate.
Barbados Bound is a rousing and engaging tale of the almost impossible challenges facing a young woman cast adrift in 18th Century British empire. Fascinating and vividly told. Highly recommended.
The book is the first book in the Patricia McPherson Nautical Adventure series. Click here to read our review of Surgeon's Mate, the second book in the series. Barbados Bound was inspired by Collison's young-adult historical novel, Star-Crossed. The New York Public Library chose Star-Crossed to be among the Books for the Teen Age — 2007.
Description of: Barbados Bound
Author: Linda Collison