Books

 

Nelly aboard the NellyNelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody

Nelly isn’t the sort of person to stand around with her mouth open letting the flies buzz in and out. When her father, Captain Peabody, disappears with a group of gentleman explorers on a voyage of zoological and botanical discovery, she decides to search him out, however difficult or dangerous the adventure.

So off she goes in a boat with knitted sails and only her turtle, Columbus, for company. And by and by her courage is rewarded. But why has Captain Peabody stayed away so long, and will he come home? And should Nelly care, either way, given that she is captain of her own ship and has promises of her own to keep?

 

The Last EnglishmanThe Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons and its sequels, is one a handful of writers who make up the British children’s canon. But before his most famous books were written, he made a name for himself in an entirely different sphere.

Fleeing from a disastrous first marriage, Ransome traveled to Russia, where he became Britain’s most controversial apologist for the Bolshevik revolution. He compared Lenin to Oliver Cromwell, became an intimate friend of Karl Radek, the Bolshevik minister of propaganda, and married Trotsky’s private secretary, Evgenia Shelepina. As Russian correspondent for the radical Daily News, and then the Manchester Guardian, he worked for the British secret service and collaborated with the Bolshevik secret police.

‘Mine,’ he confessed in his autobiography, ‘has not been a life of consistent effort towards a single end. It seems to me that I have been like a shuttlecock bandied to and fro by lunatics. I seem to have led not one life, but snatches from a dozen lives. I have had a great deal of undeserved good fortune.’

Ransome returned to England with Evgenia in 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, and Swallows and Amazons was published six years later. In 1937, with the publication of We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, his name was removed from a Foreign Office list of suspected Bolshevik agitators.

 

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