The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
Go Saddle the Sea
Publisher: Random House
Felix Brooke’s life seems ill-starred: orphaned and left in the less than tender care of his aristocratic Spanish grandparents, he spends his lonely days inventing pranks to play on his aunts (and being roundly punished for it). The discovery of a blood-stained letter from his father hinting at a family in England prompts him to plot his escape, and under cover of darkness he makes his bid for freedom, heading out into the mountains to find passage to England across the Bay of Biscay. On his travels he is variously abducted, shipwrecked, and imprisoned, encounters duelling treasure-hunters, mends a years-long feud between neighbouring villages, and becomes firm friends with a bad-tempered and disobedient donkey.
Set just after the Napoleonic Wars and narrated with wit and verve by the hot-headed and adventurous protagonist, this is a superb bildungsroman that brings the world of nineteenth-century Spain to life. Though some readers might find the slightly archaic language challenging in parts, this is a great book that richly deserves to be back in print, and is the first in a trilogy continued by Bridle the Wind and The Teeth of the Gale.