Monday, October 18, 2010

Scout by Nicole Pluss

As the Scout sails from England, Kit Lovell cries for the life she is leaving and the life she could have had. Her father was a sea captain who went down with his ship before she was born. Now her mother is to marry a stranger, a lighthouse keeper in the remote colony of South Australia.
But it soon becomes clear to Kit that this voyage across the world's vast oceans is setting something loose inside her, something she doesn't understand. Her secret encounters with Angel, a mysterious young sailor, seem at one moment completely bewildering and at another crystal clear. And her friendship with the bold and brash young Clarissa is opening her eyes in ways she never thought possible.
Yet Kit's internal turmoil is nothing compared to the power of the sea in all its moods as the Scout's melting pot of passengers and crew sail into an adventure that will change all their lives forever (publishers site)

Scout is set in the 1800's and apart from a brief stop-over (about a third into the novel) at Rio De Janeiro, the events in the novel take place entirely at sea.

The descriptions are really vivid - the waves and sea-sickness, the decks and cramped quarters and the gentry living amongst the sailors - it was all painted so wonderfully.

The voice is distinctly from that era - a little bit formal, with this underlying quiet, amused humour in parts and it was easy to imagine the accompanying mannerisms and etiquette of the time. The narrative is like a re-telling, written as a journal after the fact.

The pacing is deliberate and it unfolds in such a gentle and compelling way that I was surprised to suddenly find myself completely sucked in. Hidden amongst the prose are such lovely little details - random intriguing pieces snuck into the story - often these are things I remember the most from stories:

  • what happened to the horse in the first storm - ooh - it was horrific
  • someone mentioning their first husband in passing: "He'd been desperately handsome but had stepped on a rusty nail and died"
  • details of cannibalism in shipwreck times (choosing which sailor to eat first, etc)
  • all the intricate back stories for each passing character are so finely woven

As for the characters: Kit (our charming protag) is loyal, quietly fierce, smart and observant and I love her story arc - by the end she is bold and full of hope, although scarred from all she witnessed.

The romance in it is understated which somehow gives it a genuine vibe and the scenes where Angel and Kit are together are a charming portrayal of a young girl experiencing feelings for the first time. 

There's also Kit's new friend, Clarissa, who I loved. She's wild and daring and works hard and pushes the boundaries. She's a lot of fun and her morals anatagonise Kit's mum...

As for Kit's mum. She's so concerned with what others think and with being decent and respectable that she'd rather starve than be thought to be greedy. The relationship between Kit and her mum is so deftly done - her mum will frustrate readers in her small-mindedness (I was especially ready to wring her neck in a particular scene in Rio De Janeiro) but somehow, all the little shades of grey are drawn in their relationship that lets you see how Kit's mum truly does care for her.

It has a bittersweet ending in some ways - but ends on great hope for Kit - who has endured so much and I think the impact of the journey will shape her character for the rest of her life.There is tragedy and deaths and it's haunting - the story itself is a re-imagining but based on research from real ships sailing to Australia.

Me and Scout: 20 minutes north of where I love there is a shipwreck (which you can sometimes see depending on the tide) and also graves of unidentified bodies that were washed ashore. I know my kids are fascinated by the graves and me too - I like imagining the people and the horrific ordeal and the era and the sense of history I get when I'm  walking along the headland. I guess I have always been fascinated by stuff like this and Nicole Pluss brought a story to life so masterfully.

Recommended: Scout is an authentic and moving tale and I think many teenagers will be fascinated and quite taken with this account of sailing to Australia.  I really liked it - an intensely quiet read, rich in it's sense of history. I give it 4 stars :)

Scout @ Publisher's site
Extract (beginning of chapter one)
Scout @ goodreads
Interview with Nicole Pluss @ Between the Lines
Scout Review @ Between the Lines
Scout review @ The Book Gryffin

Scout was released Aug 30 2010 in Australia. Nicole Plüss is an award-winning Australian author of books for young adults, teenagers and children. visit her website.

Thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy


  1. Nice review! You always write so well. :) You've been recommending me Aussie books lately, so I'll add this one to the pile. See if they have any of these books in my local library, next time I visit.

  2. Another great recommendation. I love the setting and the characterization sound amazing. I have only read one story set almost entirely at sea: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but love it. This one sounds like it would be a very compelling read.

    Also how cool is it that you can actually see a shipwreck from where you live.

  3. Thanks for the review! Its great to find new books to add to my TBR and this does sound great.

  4. sounds mysterious and very interesting. xx

  5. This sounds very intriguing, mysterious, and perfect for this time of year!!! I love it, I'm just picturing the lighthouses and being at sea... spooky and mysterious which I love.

  6. Haven't heard of this one but it sounds very subtly written, not overdone. I like some bittersweetness in books so that's nice to see. Really enjoyed the way you discussed all the elements (pacing, voice, characters etc.) to give us a good idea of the book's flavour! Thanks :)

  7. Ooo sounds good. I love stories that come alive.

  8. amazing review... I'm always so impressed at how thorough your reviews are.


  9. Amazing review! Another one to the TBR list :)

  10. Now that's what I call a gritty cover.
    Looks like a well researched, intense book.

  11. Your review is so detailed, but it still separates out the different boldface aspects of the the style!
    Keep up the great work :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)