Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.
The Coral Island by Robert Michael Ballantyne
Young Ralph is from a sea-faring family-as far back as he can trace his ancestors, they were seamen…even his mother always went to see with her Captain husband.
When Ralph at 15 tells his parents that being in the Coastal Service (Coast Guard) just isn’t enough and that he longs to see the islands of the South Pacific, they agree to let him go. His father helps get him a position on a ship leaving immediately.
Alas the ship is doomed to shipwreck on a coral reef in a wicked six day storm. Ralph, with his two young sailor friends, Jack and Peterkin, cling to an oar as they ride the waves over the coral reef and into the calm water beyond…and so begins their adventure on Coral Island.
They explore the island and find all sorts of wonderous things to eat, dive deep underwater to view the marvelous coral reefs and the reef’s inhabitants, and simply enjoy their wonderful island idyll…until the day a pirate ship is spotted.
Ralph is taken away aboard the pirate ship and so begins the second half of the book with new and quite different adventures…generally, pirates, cannibals and missionaries.
All ends well with Ralph rejoining his friends, saving a girl from a wicked Island Chief and finally leaving the Coral Islands for home.
This 1857 juvenile adventure novel was voted in 2006 one of the top 20 Scottish novels. It is said that The Lord of the Flies was written in reaction to this novel and its imperialistic Anglo centric tone…i.e., English boys too can be savage.
Be aware, there is a racial epithet uttered by one of the pirates.