Friday, August 6, 2021

The Midshipman and the Rajah by Marjorie Phillips

Title: The Midshipman and the Rajah
Author: Marjorie Phillips
Illustrator: Gil Walker
Publication: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., hardcover, 1963
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Description: At ten, Tim Kennet was alone in the world after his mother died, working at a local inn for his keep. When his uncle returned from a naval voyage and found Tim there, he made the boy a midshipman on the ship he captains, the Ariadne. Although it is a harsh life, Tim has loved his three years serving under his uncle. This comes to an abrupt end when Captain Keith’s mission to an Indian state called Netwal reveals that the new rajah is Tim’s father who disappeared when he was four. Mr. Kennet was captured by pirates, sold as a slave, and finally ingratiated himself as the confidante of a rajah who eventually made him his heir. The rajah wants Tim to help secure a dynasty, not because of guilt at having abandoned Tim and his mother or any affection, and Captain Keith does not want to stand in the way of a prosperous life for Tim.

My Impression: This is an adventure as well as an orphan story. Tim has thrived as a midshipman although his uncle is chary with praise and he does not want to leave the ship to live in a palace with his father, who is cold and self-absorbed:
As soon as I saw my father again I remembered him perfectly. Lithe, dark and lean-featured, he swung himself onto the quarterdeck, a gorgeous figure in white and cloth of gold, with jewels winking in the folds of his turban and on the hilt of his sword.

With a rakish, swashbuckling air he saluted the quarterdeck, and then his eyes fell on me. I saw his teeth gleam. In four strides he had me by the shoulders. Next moment my hat was off – rolling along the quarterdeck – and two resounding kisses went off like pistol shots in my ears.

“Excuse the over-enthusiasm!” said my father’s well-remembered voice coolly. “When one is playing to the gallery, it is necessary to overreact.”
Tim’s father is hard to please, which is doubly hard when the boy would prefer to stay with his uncle that be friendless in an unfamiliar culture. However, Tim is brave and has good instincts: when his father goes off to battle a rival, he leaves Tim in charge. Upon realizing his father has been drawn into a trap, Tim acts decisively, ordering his father’s men to reinforce the garrisons and warn them the enemy is coming, then makes a dangerous secret escape to go warn the Ariadne of the danger. He barely escapes with his life but saves the day and even the rajah is impressed: “They love a hero, and you, I am afraid, have behaved uncommonly like one.”  It is tempting to say Tim was better off without him but Captain Keith is right that life in the British Navy in the 18th or 19th century was dangerous.
I don’t remember who recommended Marjorie Phillips but I enjoyed this and an earlier book, Two of Red and Two of Blue. These books would appeal to fans of Geoffrey Trease, due to the blend of history, adventure, and humor. This is book eleven in my 20 Books of Summer. This is also my eighteenth book in the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.
Source: Personal copy.

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