I had read Wilbur Smith a few years ago and did not like it, even as I struggled to finish it. However, coming highly recommended by another bibliophile I decided to give this particular author another chance.
‘Monsoon’ follows the saga of the Courtney family as they travel across the world in search of adventure. Apparently there are no fewer than 13 books dedicated to this series. Monsoon follows the Courtney family during the 1690’s. It is the story of Hal Courtney’s four sons, from his three, different wives. Hal loves all his sons and they love him too, but the animosity between the oldest brother and the younger siblings is as chilling as it is sad. Hal’s oldest is William, whose mother was an Ethiopian princess, and who will inherit his father’s property. William is unbelievably cruel and selfish, apart from being and a bully and a very violent one at that. William makes explosive entries a few times in the novel and causes a lot of mayhem but this book is not really about him.
After William, the next in line are the twins, Tom and Guy. They are as different as chalk and cheese and also this book has a different perspective on the dynamics of twin behaviour as opposed to the commonly held views about twins. Dorian is the youngest sibling and the baby of the family. Tom and Dorian are the main protagonists in this book, as we follow their adventures with their father and then individually, after their separation and Hal’s death.
Most of the story takes place on ships and the manoeuvres of war on water are fascinating. Landfall is in the African sub-continent and the trade is of ivory with the sport of elephant hunting. Aboli is a fascinating character and I wish his background had been touched upon more in this book, but probably it was covered in the prequel.
The story is interesting and the characters intriguing, however I felt that the author tends to leave the reader feeling just a little dissatisfied with the character build-ups. Like William and Guy, who are vicious and selfish and yet never really explored properly. If only there might have been a better peep into their lives, maybe they would have some redeeming traits. And some important threads just seem to peter out into thin air; like the fate of Tom’s first-born. Towards the end, the book seemed to be dragging a little and I also wish the author had put up the years at the top of each chapter, as the story tends to move back and forth in time, as the story of each brother is revealed.
Would I read another Wilbur Smith? Yes, after all I am a sucker for saga’s and the author ended the book so abruptly, that there will be no closure until I know what happened next. It is long but interesting enough to keep you engrossed almost till the end.