Award-winning voice actor George Guidall gives a superb performance of the 1897 coming-of-age tale Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. Guidall inhabits each character with ease, breathing life into this crackling story. Harvey Cheyne, Jr., the teenage son of a tycoon, is traveling on a luxury steamship when he goes overboard. Fishermen on a schooner save him, and allow him to stay onboard if he works as part of the crew. So begins his sensational adventures on the high seas, where he seizes the chance to prove his worth as a man.
Captains Courageous is Rudyard Kipling's classic fable of a boy's initiation into the fellowship of men, played out on the high seas of the late 1800s. When he falls overboard from a luxury liner, Harvey Cheyne, the spoiled son of an American millionaire, is rescued by a small New England fishing schooner. To earn his keep, Harvey must prove his worth in the only way the skipper and his hardy crew will accept: through the grueling mastery of a fisherman's skills. Brimming with salty dialogue, crackling adventure, and mesmerizing visions of the sea, Captains Courageous is one of this Nobel Prize-winning author's most enduringly popular tales.
(P)1995 Recorded Books, LLC
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"A Paean to Boyhood, Atlantic Fishermen, & America"
Fifteen-year-old Harvey Cheyne, Jr., a spoiled rich boy possessed of a "mix of irresolution, bravado, and cheap smartness," and an overly protective mother and an overly driven multi-millionaire business tycoon father, is just on his way to Europe to finish his education when he's washed over board his ocean liner and fished out of the North Atlantic by a Portuguese man rowing a dory belonging to Disko Troop, captain of the "We're Here," a cod fishing schooner out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Harvey, who has never done any work in his life, must earn his keep as a supercargo member of the crew because Troop doesn't believe his "crazy" story about being the son of a millionaire and so won't leave his fishing grounds to return the boy to his parents until after the end of the fishing season. Harvey soon begins changing, becoming more humble and physically fit and soaking up knowledge of the schooner, the sea, the fish, the weather, and the men. He "works like a horse, eats like a pig, and sleeps like a dead man," and is soon a valued member of the crew. But, assuming he and the ship survive the dangerous work, weather, and steamship liners, what will he do with his life after the fishing season?
After one gets past the initial shock of Kipling writing slangy, dialect-inflected, turn of the century American English and New England dialogue, chowder full of things like "the blame boys," "plumb providential," "Pshaw," "fust," "ruther," "fer," "hev to," "efter," "hain't," and the like), the first three quarters of the book are engaging, crackling with Kipling's enthusiasm for North Atlantic fishing life and its savory fishermen, all driven by the education and growth of Harvey. The novel provides a wealth of detail on sailing (sails, masts, tackles, navigation, currents, squalls, fogs, rocks, shoals, etc.), fishing (lines, hooks, dories, cod, grampus, squid, cleaning, salting, stowing, eating, etc.), and general nautical living (ghost stories, popular yarns, melancholy or rousing songs, forearm boils, teasing in-jokes, sea burials, etc.) which Kipling gradually reveals through Harvey's life and work aboard the "We're Here."
Kipling, who wrote the book shortly after marrying a New England woman, clearly enjoyed doing first-hand research for it, visiting various boats and ships in Boston harbor and getting sick on a fishing boat. Throughout his novel, he expresses his love for the New England coast, the Atlantic Ocean, America, and the American capitalist dream. This is very much a boy's book. Harvey Jr. and Sr. are tied by male bonds of work and business deeper and grander than anything that might connect the boy to his weak mother. The best education for a boy is doing hard and communal work among men and other boys.
There are moments of vivid nautical experience, as when Harvey wakes up for the first time aboard the schooner:
"The oilskins had a peculiarly thick flavor of their own which made a sort of background to the smells of fried fish, burnt grease, paint, pepper, and stale tobacco; but these, again, were all hooped together by one encircling smell of ship and salt water. . . . Then, too, the boat's motion was not that of a steamer. She was neither sliding nor rolling, but rather wriggling herself about in a silly, aimless way, like a colt at the end of a halter. Water-noises ran by close to his ear, and beams creaked and whined about him. All these things made him grunt despairingly and think of his mother."
And there are moments of vivid nautical beauty, as when Harvey
"began to comprehend and enjoy the dry chorus of wave-tops turning over with a sound of incessant tearing; the hurry of the winds working across open spaces and herding the purple-blue cloud-shadows; the splendid upheaval of the red sunrise; the folding and packing away of the morning mists, wall after wall withdrawn across the white floors; the salty glare and blaze of noon; the kiss of rain falling over thousands of dead, flat square miles; the chilly blackening of everything at the day's end; and the million wrinkles of the sea under the moonlight, when the jib-boom solemnly poked at the low stars, and Harvey went down to get a doughnut from the cook."
Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book consists of a long resolution, which, focusing on Harvey's father, his rags to riches American success story, his businesses, and his relationship with his son, lasts too long, distracts too much from Harvey's compelling sea story, and extols too fervently the glory of America and its capitalist business and "progress," etc.
There are some uncomfortable racial moments involving the ship's cook who, although being treated with affection by the other crew members and Kipling, is perilously close to being a clichéd comedic superstitious and loyal natural servant to white men.
George Guidall, an excellent reader, is in top form here. He makes it easier to listen to than to read Kipling's New England fisherman dialect, what with its strange orthography: "Mebbe I do, an' mebbe I don't. Take a reef in your stummick, young feller. It's full o' my vittles." However, perhaps Guidall makes it a little too easy, and I "mistrust" that he could have made the accent thicker than he does, for I longed to hear more New England English.
Finally, although Captain's Courageous is not as great as Kim, let alone the Jungle Book and Just So Stories, it is a fun read. People who like stories of spoiled boys who mature through hard work and adversity, especially at sea, or who are curious to see late 19th century America through the adoring eyes of a great English writer, should enjoy the book.
"I Love This Story..."
George Guidall. He brings the story of a spoiled brat becoming a level headed young man to life in a way few could. This is the great version of a great book.
The book has already been made into a film, and it was good as well. My tag line might be "a brat's journey to manhood".
Well worth your money or your credit.
"Captains Couragous narrated by George Guidall"
Although written at the turn of the century, Kipling still captivates the reader (and listener) with morals and issues that continue to be important in today's society. A must read short novel that gets better when narrated by George Guidall! Guidall brings out the characters like no one else can. A wonderful audio book that I recommend for kids ages 1 to 100!
I have had the pleasure of listening to Guidall's narration of "Typhoon" by Joseph Conrad. Guidall has the rare ability to bring the story to life as if you were there walking the deck with the characters in the book! His talents have never let me down yet and I actively look for his name as narrator of an audio book - he's that good.
There were times that I would find myself laughing with the story and yes, a damp eye for the sad parts. This story has the ability to move you emotionally!
As each generation passes, I think we loose the realization of just how every day life has changed along with our language usage. This short novel is a great bridge to our past and forces us to remember the sacrifices people made to "put bread on the table".
"A MINOR sea story and a MINOR Kipling"
Just finished listening to this with the kids. Enjoyed it, just didn't love it. The last section should have ended about 20 pages (1 hr) earlier. It was like Kipling hit the natural climax for the story and then felt he needed to write another twenty pages to make somebody happy and decided to just phone-it-in (or the equivalent to phoning-it-in would be in 1897).
The story was interesting, but just not THAT interesting. I guess I would class this as a minor sea story and a minor Kipling. If you are really into sea stories AND obsessed with Kipling, for sure, don't skip this book. Otherwise, I'd stick with Kim and Moby-Dick.
"A case where a good movie ruined a great book"
I have long loved the Spenser Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Barrymore movie loosely based on this book. And, it's a decent enough movie, and expertly performed, but the story is rather syrupy. If, like me, you think you know the story because you saw the movie - you too are wrong. The book has no such syrup. There are important things about the book that cannot translate to the screen, but additionally, the book is so much more powerful and gritty. And the story is very different. This book should be a must read for every Jr High School student, especially boys. It is not only important literature, it teaches important lessons in character development within ones self, and a lot about the value of work and family. As a father of boys, I enjoyed it also from their minds eye as well as reliving my own boyhood.
Kipling is very courageous in how he deals honestly in a book for children with issues of life and death, personal integrity, religious tolerance, cross-cultural understanding, and what it means to a boy learning what it means to be a man.
A steam liner is cutting across the fishing channel in the night fog and Harvey is frantically ringing the boat's bell praying to save his life and the lives of his friends when he flashes back to a time when he was aboard a luxury steam-liner cutting through fishing waters and he wished to see the spectacle of a fishing boat crushed under the bigger boat. He is tormented to his very soul for his callous disregard of human life and regrets the arrogant boy he used to be.
I chose this book because I've become such a fan of Guidall's reading that I search now for books read by him. His abilities to bring a book to life are especially highlighted in such a book as this. I have come to think of him as a good friend though he doesn't know I exist.
George Guidall's choice of voices and accents was wonderful. The story takes place on a fishing boat, crewed by people from all over the world, and I could instantly tell who was speaking by listening to a few words.
I will re-listen to this book for pleasure.
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