“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.” – Ricky Skaggs
Author SJ Garland’s novel ‘Captain Hawk’ chronicles the lives of British and Dutch expats in Singapore at the pinnacle of the East India Company’s reign. It’s set in the early 1800’s and we follow the adventures of Nathaniel Hawk, an able and highly trained seaman who would rather seek glory and adventures on land than out on the sea. But after a series of nefarious mishaps threaten the peaceful existence of the shipping business, Nathaniel finds himself at the centre of it all especially after a great tragedy strikes close to home. This is the story of a man who must desperately find answers to secrets surrounding his life, not only to find closure but also to secure his future.
Nathaniel is the quintessential reluctant hero who would rather follow a different life path from the one he’s preordained to follow. But a series of events doesn’t allow him this luxury and he finds himself having to take on great responsibilities in the midst of ruins everywhere. Nathaniel’s growth graph has been brilliantly charted by the author, he’s not presented as a finished hero product, and neither does he become one by the end. But the growth in his character, his own realization of his purpose in life makes for a highly interesting lead character. This change in him can be seen throughout the book as we see the changing dynamics of his relationship with other important characters. Nathaniel as a literary character has plenty going for him and is someone you can spin plenty of adventure stories around.
The book uses both Nathaniel and Charlotte to cleverly narrate this story. In the Nathaniel narrative you get to peek inside the mind of the lead character and become privy to all the action and adventure from a first person’s objective. While from the Charlotte’s point of view, we not only get to see the important role her character plays but are also introduced to a host of secondary characters and sub-plots that help in establishing an identity for the place and era in which the story is set in. This helps the reader feel more connected with these characters and could prove beneficial when the sequel comes out.
The writing is very precise and at the same time is highly descriptive too, giving all the scenes a visual comprehension. Various themes like identity crisis, the complexity and uniqueness of father-son relationships, family honor, etc find flavor in the author’s writing. Being a historical fiction, this book introduces to you a different side of Singapore and history really does come alive in this melting pot of different cultures and personalities. The realism employed by the author often makes you forget the fact that you are reading a fictional book.
It’s a great start to a brand new series by a talented author!
Paperback: 289 pages
Publisher: Maple Kakapo Limited (April 28, 2015)