“I have often wondered whether, had I known what would happen, I would have left the Amethyst at that very moment. No. Truly, I think that even if I had known, I would do it all again, even though the voyage would change my life, alter the way I think about the world and the men who spoil it, and probably there was nothing I might have done to alter the course of events. These things move towards us from the horizon, whether we set sail for them or not.”
English gentleman and naturalist Eliot Saxby boards the hunting ship Amethyst, embarking on a quest to find remains of the extinct great auk. The only other civilians aboard are Edward Bletchley and his cousin, Clara. The captain, Sykes, and his men are a crude lot, hanging on to propriety by the thinnest of tethers. Certainly, they know their place around gentlemen and ladies, but they are on a ship, after all, a ship not commonly given to carrying passengers. The Amethyst is entirely their realm.
"Jeremy Page has penned a beautifully rendered tale of the sea, with deep emotion and passion."
Saxby may be forgiven his foolishness, considering his youth. But he makes one mistake after another, setting in motion a cavalcade of tragedies. His companions, Bletchley and Clara, seem to be nearly as naïve about the nature and workings of men. Maybe that’s why their world and the world of the seamen collide so spectacularly. A ship is a small universe, and the possibility of leaving it only comes along at the captain’s whim. So an uneasy détente settles over the crew and passengers, although a simmering undercurrent of violence pervades the atmosphere. It’s true that Saxby accomplishes his goal, but at what cost?
Meanwhile, Bletchley has commissioned the manufacture of several guns to bring along, with the thought that he might do a bit of hunting himself. But soon, the butchery, blood and gore that he finds himself in the midst of on an almost daily basis leave him sickened and morose. That isn’t surprising, though, as frankly it was hard to read. Saxby and Bletchley’s cousin, Clara, are equally repulsed.
The voyage goes on probably too long for any of them. They each carry a secret from their past, a burden with which they need to come to grips, and days aboard a ship provide plenty of time for introspection. But what they see isn’t always clear, knowing who they can trust isn’t easy to figure, and where they end up isn’t where they set out to go.
Jeremy Page has penned a beautifully rendered tale of the sea, with deep emotion and passion. However, if you’re squeamish about hunting for sport, killing for the thrill of it, or wanton disregard for animal life, this is not the book for you.
While THE COLLECTOR OF LOST THINGS is a sensory cornucopia, it is also a very violent and brutish story. It feels like an in-your-face political statement about the environment and conservation, poaching and hunting to extinction. It seems to say: We are affecting our earth not only to its detriment, but to its demise. Maybe it needs to be said, and perhaps it needs to be said in this unpleasant, almost loathsome manner in order for people to understand the message. Just brace yourself for descriptions of unconscionable savagery and pages of lost hope.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 13, 2013