Pagoda Tree

Pagoda Tree

  • Paperback
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 120 x 180mm
  • Random House Children's Publishers UK
  • Corgi Childrens
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0552118702
  • 9780552118705

Review Text

Initially absorbing in its neo-Dickensian tale of London low-life and Australian prison-exile, this mid-Victorian saga soon loses much of its grip - as Mather (The Memsahib, etc.) leads his narrator-hero through a lively but shapeless series of Asian adventures. He's Ross Stafford, orphaned along with older brother Neil - an attractive but hot-tempered, swinish fellow who precedes Ross up to London, enters a life of minor crime, and hooks up with a sometime prostitute, rough but tender-hearted Caerwen. Ross himself tries to make an honest clerking living and to steer Neil straight; but when Neil and Caerwen are arrested for theft and shockingly sentenced to 14 years' penal servitude, loyal Ross does the near-impossible: he follows them to Australia, rescues them both (Caerwen is killed, however, by highway robber-rapists), and - after chases, bribes, and betrayals - Neil and Ross escape from Down Under on a Chinese junk headed for Hong Kong. Thereafter, disappointingly, the adventures become far less focused: the brothers go to work for a half-Chinese trader (as Europeans they can get vital licenses); Ross rescues the trader's beauteous, 3/4-white daughter from an opium-rebellion in Canton; foul Neil steals the daughter away but is shot by the trader; Ross flees for England but is waylaid mid-voyage (" 'The Black Hole of Calcutta!' I gasped in horror. 'Good God! But what am I doing here.' "); Ross joins the British India Army, later deserts (for good reasons), and trains a Rajah's private brigade - just about in time for the Sepoy Mutiny. . . . If Ross were a bit more of a rounded or sympathetic character, perhaps the linear, meandering, coincidence-ridden plotting here wouldn't be so conspicuous. But unfortunately he's your basic noble stick, and the supporting cast harks back as well to boys'-adventure pulp; so, despite that promisingly textured beginning, this ends up as no more nor less than smooth, professional, intermittently atmospheric colonial derringdo - classy comic-book adventure. (Kirkus Reviews)show more