James Cook by Peter Fitzsimons

‘Who was James Cook? What sort of man was he?’

Peter Fitzsimons sets out to answer these questions in this chatty, weighty tome.

Does he succeed? Not really.

I am a big fan of Captain James Cook the navigator. I have read several books about him and his journeys: the boy from the Yorkshire farm who became a master mariner, an accomplished cartographer and navigator. I am interested in where he came from, in how a farm boy from Yorkshire ended up being the foremost navigator of his era.

And in parts Mr Fitzsimons gave me that. But I cannot warm to his style of writing, to his little asides. I kept reading (for once I start a book, I feel compelled to finish it). While I did not learn anything new, I did quite enjoy the description of fothering which was undertaken to keep the Endeavour afloat after she was holed on 11 June 1770.

If you enjoy history as portrayed on television, with actors in period costume trying to give you some idea of how, say, Henry VIII lived and Ann Boleyn schemed, then you may well enjoy this book more than I did. I like my facts less adorned. Boring, I know.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith