Thursday 19 June 2014

To See the World

To See the World by Elaine Forrestal (National Library of Australia)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9780642278494
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

To See the World is highly acclaimed author Elaine Forrestal’s new book. A fictional account of Rose de Freycinet’s voyage on the Uranie (1817-1820), it is based on Rose’s journal kept in the National Library of Australia.

The story is narrated by Jose, an illiterate mulatto, who dreamed of being a famous sea captain and encounters with pirates and cannibals. A real person, Jose begins his journey as a cabin boy, knowing nothing but how to be free and wild. He ends it literate in more than letters; with experiences that would have killed a weaker spirit. This is a wonderful adventure of courage and determination whichever way you look at it.

With women prohibited on state ships, Rose de Freycinet dressed as a man and boarded the vessel to be close to her husband, Louis, Commander of the Uranie. He had a passion for terrestrial magnetism, astronomy and meteorology, and meticulously charted every detail of his research and discoveries.  

Rose’s life is a magnificently recorded document. She spent the entire journey educating Jose, recording everything she heard, saw, and experienced. Rose became the ‘first European woman to write an account of her circumnavigation of the world’. The Uranie was shipwrecked on the Falkland Islands on its return voyage in February, 1820.

Elaine Forrestal has recreated a breathtaking vision of this real event. From the beginning of this love story amidst a great historical event, she has filled each page with excitement, courage and resilience. The book ends in two pages of references and a Glossary. More on this extraordinary voyage can be found in the NLA archives. 

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