Monday, 30 March 2009

A Lad of Grit - Percy F.Westerman

Certain things become clear about the attitude Percy F.Westerman had to the subject of his first story.
'A Lad of Grit' is subtitled 'A Story of Adventure on Land and Sea in Restoration Times'. There is no doubt where Westerman expected his readers to stand with regard to Roundheads and Cavaliers and the events that involved Great Britain in a civil war and its aftermath. He is a Cavalier by inclination and by open declaration. His opinions about Oliver Cromwell as a form of arch-traitor and his supporters as unworthy of any sympathetic appraisal show which side of the line he was standing as he addressed his younger readers. The loathsome behaviour of the Stuarts (Charles I,Charles II,James II) is glossed over and the romantic notion of Charles I being a martyr without any faults is (for this reader) as grotesque as his superficial and vicious portrait of any who fought for the Parliamentary Cause. However, one doesn't read Westerman for balanced, objective or even honest political opinions. Westerman was merely following a literary path that had been well-trodden by other practitioners of historical stories for juveniles. One only needs to read someone like Conan Doyle to see how a broader and less strait-jacketed approach to national and international figures was possible. That is not what Percy F. Westerman was about.
This is the story of a young man growing to adult years and taking his place in the world. That would seem to be the essence of Westerman's stories for the rest of his life. The section of the book which is devoted to life at sea is filled with tremendous energy and apparent nautical knowledge. The early chapters of the book are set in rural Hampshire with events on Rake Hill and in the small town of Petersfield. The death of Owen Wentworth takes his fourteen year old son, Aubrey, to Portsmouth and lodgings with his aunt and uncle. The story is told in the first person which automatically brings the hero closer to his young readers - yet, from my knowledge, was not the point of view which Percy Westerman used for the majority of his books. (A point to be studied further !) (to be continued later)

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