This was not the great adventure I had anticipated. I wanted to swim back to my mother, to feel her arms around me, to smell the delicious spicy fish she would be cooking instead of this disgusting mixture of stale milk and filthy toilets. The wind roared in the rigging. The waves slapped the hull so hard that I knew I would be battered to death immediately if I jumped into the sea. My mother always complained that I would drive her crazy; I was so careless and afraid of nothing. But I am not stupid. Although my heart was aching and I desperately wanted to go home, I would never let the sea take me.
Jose has lived all of his life on the island of Mauritius, but his father has arranged for him to travel and work on board the ship Uranie. Jose anticipates a life of seeing interesting places and having adventures. He doesn’t expect to meet a woman on the ship. It is 1818 and women are not allowed to join naval expeditions, but Rose de Freycinet has decided she cannot bear to be apart from her husband, and besides, she wants an adventure of her own. Jose is not impressed. Rose wants to teach him to read and write and her very presence makes ship life more dangerous. But as their journey continues, a friendship develops between the two, and Jose becomes as loyal as most of the other sailors.
To See the World is the fictionalised account of the journey of French ship Uranie which attempted to circumnavigate the world and conduct scientific research. Rose de Freycinet, the wife of the expedition leader, Louis, became the first woman to write an account of such a circumnavigation, including their encounters with pirates, and cannibals, and their shipwrecking on the Falkland Islands. While this is a work of fiction, the character of Jose is based on a real boy, and the events of the story use real events, drawing on journals and other documents. Each chapter of the book opens with an image or painting from the time, from the National Library of Australia’s collection.
Suitable for middle and upper primary aged readers, To See the World is an intriguing tale of history, travel and an adventurous woman.
To See the World, by Elaine Forrestal
NLA Publishing, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online .