Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho! is the novel after which the English seaside village was named. The story follows the adventures of Amyas Leigh, an obstinate young man who decides to go sailing. He settles for a certain period in the Caribbean islands searching for gold and succeeds in making a little fortune. He then decides to go back to England by the time of the Spanish Armada, a sixteenth-century Spanish fleet that intended to invade England and overthrow Queen Elizabeth I for rivalry over colonies in the Netherlands, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Much of the novel describes the struggles between the two world powers, picturing the continuous naval battles that they engaged in. Amayas becomes greatly concerned when the Spaniards abduct his brother Frank Leigh as well as an admired local beauty named Rose Salterne. Furthermore, Amyas's life turns into a sad tragedy when he is further struck by a thunderbolt that costs him his eyesight. Generally, Kingsley gives the story a religious touch by making the war between England and Spain equally appear like a war between Protestantism and Catholicism, particularly when he shows how English hostages are often burnt at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition.
I read this after reading Travels With a Donkey which was his next work to be published. Both are "travel literature" and both relate the story of rough travels in France - a little like an early backpacker experience - where the discomfort and inconvenience is a necessary part of the story to later told.
I found this work to be less polished than Travels with a Donkey, and when I found it was the earlier piece, I was able to retrospectively see the L-plates on the author. He seems to be trying too hard to impress. But by the second half of the book, I found the writing flowed better, contained more interesting insights, and was generally more pleasing.
A good read, particularly in relation to observing the development of the author.
Read Nov 2015.