Did Missee Lee, the classically educated pirate, who rescued the Swallows and Amazons after they were shipwrecked off the coast of China, sail the seven seas in a boat like this one (above) which ferries present-day tourists across Hong Kong harbour?
I hope so – it would have been a slight consolation for the Walkers and the Blacketts, who are horrified to discover Missee Lee wants to keep them prisoners.
And, to the dismay of Cap’n Nancy, teach them Latin.
Twenty-two gong Taicoon
But it’s better than the alternative – although Nancy, at least, might have enjoyed walking the plank…
That’s if Missee Lee, a 22-gong Taicoon and leader of the Three Island pirates, didn’t chop off their heads first.
It would be nice to say I fell in love with Missee Lee, tenth in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, when I was knee high to a grasshopper – Nancy Blackett would have been my heroine.
A marathon reading of Arthur Ransome’s much loved children’s adventure story Swallows and Amazons takes place on the lake shore north of Coniston Boating Centre, starting at 9am on Sunday 3 September, 2017. The novel’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read, and will involve at least 35 readers.
For more information click here or follow @ifnotduffers on Twitter
But, I was a little bit older and, like so many of my favourite good reads, stumbled on the book by accident after it featured in a BBC Radio Four story time slot.
I was hooked – bought the paperback and devoured it before the final episode of the radio serial aired.
And then read the rest of Ransome’s adventures.
Of course, all the stories have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt – Missee Lee, for example, was written in the 30s when attitudes were very different and it was perfectly acceptable to present stereotypical pictures of foreigners.
Which, in this case, means cod-Chinese accents and an inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’.
Velly, velly irritating.
And you’d have thought Ransome would have known better too.
After all, he travelled widely in Russia as well as China and married Trotsky’s secretary.
However, there’s no point judging a book by the politically incorrect social mores and prejudices of the times in which they were written.
Otherwise, you’d never read anything written before the millennium.
And, there’s such a lot to like about Missee Lee from the comedy of Roger enjoying his status as Missee Lee’s star pupil to Uncle Jim posing as the American mayor of San Francisco.
There’ll be a long wait for his ransom to be paid, Miss Lee shrewdly observes.
Of course, it all needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt – but isn’t that true of almost every story that appeals to adults almost as much as it does to youngsters?
A good one to read aloud to your own Swallows and Amazons on the 50th anniversary of Ransome’s death.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.