Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Marvellous (but authentic) Adventures of Captain Corcoran - Alfred Assollant (Translated by Sam Miller)

Sent to me by Vintage in exchange for an honest review

Book Info: Hardback, Action/Adventure, 254pp

Buy/Read Now (links):
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Rating: 4/5


Readers interested in classic tales of adventure in a foreign land. And those who like Bengal Tigers :D

Summed up in a few words
Fun. Fierce. Harsh. Classic.

First Impressions
I really appreciate classic books! Thank you to Rosanna at Vintage for my copy. Captain Corcoran is a french classic aimed at an audience of all ages (though by modern standards, late teen/adult readers). There are several elements that make this book special and worth adding to your collection. The book itself is gorgeous, with all the original artwork included. Captain Corcoran has only recently been translated into English due to Assollant's dislike for the English back in the late 1800's. Finally it is an intriguing story of an adventurous duo that sparks that feeling of adventure everyone looks for when reading a book like this. 

Author Bio
Alfred Assollant was born in 1827. He was a teacher, journalist, writer and outspoken opponent of Napoleon III. He wrote more than thirty books over thirty years, including historical fiction, collected essays and a treatise on the rights of women, but only The Marvellous (but authentic) Adventures of Captain Corcoran, published in 1867, was a success. In the 1870s, his wife, son and daughter died in quick succession and Assollant found himself poverty stricken. In 1886 he also died, all but forgotten despite the continuing success of Corcoran, in a paupers' hospital in Paris.

Sam Miller was born and brought up in London, but has spent much of his adult life in India. He is a former BBC journalist, and author of Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity and A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes. (Official Bios)

Book Synopsis
Introducing The Marvellous CAPTAIN CORCORAN
He is charming to ladies, courteous to true gentleman, death to pirates and merciless to the English. He speaks several languages, can bend an iron bar with his bare hands, and has adventured his way across he seven seas with his faithful friend Louison by his side. Loyal to only her master, Louison can be a little boisterous, and there's the devil to pay when she misses a meal (she is a tiger, after all).

Corcoran is on the hunt for a lost sacred Hindu text, but arriving in India he is soon distracted from his quest by the claims of Prince Holkar, his lotus-eyed daughter, and their daring stand against the English occupying forces. (Official Synopsis) 

My Thoughts
After discussing Captain Corcoran with his wife's stepfather, Sam Miller ordered a copy of the original French text. After reading the book, Sam Miller decided to translate Assollant's work into English as he found it to be an interesting piece with a rich history. I am very glad he choose to do this as I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it has an amazing adventurous tone and some great characters to go with it. Though it does have some adult themes and graphic violence that I don't think would suit today's youth like it might have in the mid 1850's. (This book is meant to be a novel for all ages).

Captain Corcoran participates in a research mission to India after he confronts the Academy of Sciences Lyon with his interest in the trip as well as his fluency in many languages, his impossible strength and his companion Louison, a protective and beautiful Bengal tigress. Upon reaching India, Corcoran and Louison find themselves in the middle of a fierce war between Prince Holkar and Colonel Barclay of the British army over control of India. With the research mission quickly forgotten, Corcoran indulges his dislike of the English and aims to help Holkar stay in power.

This is a tale of adventure that slowly evolves into one of control and war. I loved the duo of Corcoran and Louison, I felt this book really shone because of them, they have such a brilliant dynamic, they cared for each other and maintain a powerful presence to those around them. Corcoran is brave, smart and an honourable gentleman. Louison is mighty, loyal and proud. The war setting was also interesting and full of turmoil/politics, with parts of the story that are actually based on true events/characters. Sam Miller maintains his presence in this book through interesting footnotes throughout the text that elaborate on certain historical/contextual elements.

My absolute favourite part to this book is the artwork that accompanies the text, it is outstanding and really accentuates the story and brings it to life. It is the original artwork and the 25 pieces included are all well placed and initiate feelings of shock, awe and humour. I felt the least appealing part to this book was the graphic violence, the implied violence is fairly standard but the descriptive violence is a bit too far for a supposed children's classic.

With mature themes and the series of events that take place in the book, I would say this book would suit a teen/adult audience. There are themes such as war, fighting and vengeance, but there is also plenty of upbeat themes like humour, adventure and companionship so it appeals to many different kinds of reader. Assollant was a talented writer but a rushed one as well, so the writing style is rapid and there are several contradictions and mistakes that Sam has glossed over with some insights into Assollant's work which added another dimension to the text.

Overall I have given the book 4/5 stars as my reading experience of the book was a great one and the book itself is gorgeous, full of outstanding artwork and plenty of history. Though I didn't find the violence necessary and I feel it could be too much for a modern younger generation but that is my own opinion. This is a book you can enjoy in one sitting and return to repeatedly to enjoy a sense of adventure and glorious, detailed artwork.

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