Wednesday 6 January 2010

Sea Fever - Sarah Mason

Sea Fever book tells the story of three young sailors as they challenge for the America's Cup. Inky, Rafe and Fabian are part of a British underdog crew bought together by the mighty Mack - British sailor extraordinaire - in order to try and beat Henry Luter.

It is written very much like Jilly Cooper - choosing a little-known competitive sport known for its glamour and peopling the story with larger-than-life caricatures in a rambling plot where the underdog triumphs. The difference is that Mason seemed unable to sustain her novel over the fairly hefty 600 pages - towards the end it was clearly sign-posted who would pair off with whom and of course we all knew that the Brits would triumph in the America's Cup.

Mason's strength is in introducing her characters (although they all seem to have ridiculous names - as well as the three main characters, there is also Milly, Bee, Hattie, Custard, Ava and a number of others). I enjoyed the story right up to the point that they went to Valencia to challenge for the Cup. Each new character was given life and I felt invested in all of them. However, when they reached Valencia everything became about the races and the characters seemed incidental.

The action of the races was a little boring to read - I don't have a huge interest in sailing and this book did little to change that. I was confused by a number of the sailing references and mixed up my minor characters, not remembering who was a grinder and who was a trimmer.

I would also criticise Mason's efforts to pair up simply everybody. Even the two oldies ended up getting married. Some of the love stories were far-fetched as well, including Custard and Saffron (where Mason threw in an incident of child abuse in an ill-conceived attempt to de-fluff the story).

I did find Rafe and Hattie very sweet, and enjoyed how their story progressed, and Milly was a lovely character who deserved the happy ending.

Altogether, nothing more than a competent effort, but not a book I shall hurry back to read again (unlike my Jilly Coopers).

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