Tuesday 2 April 2013


Book review: When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek

My edition: Paperback, published on 1 March 2013 by Constable & Robinson, 306 pages.

Description:Loyalty Island is a small fishing community dependent on the Gaunt family fleet for survival. Each winter, Cal's father - a captain of the fleet - sets sail for Alaska to trawl for crab. Cal may be too young to join in their adventure, but he is old enough to know that everything depends on the fate of those few boats thousands of miles north.

When the fleet's owner, John Gaunt, dies, he leaves the town's livelihood in peril. With winter fast approaching, Cal starts to suspect that his father may have taken extreme measures to save the fleet from extinction . . . Plagued by doubt, his loyalties strained and his moral compass in tatters, Cal is forced to make a terrible choice.

When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man maps the troubles waters of a community at risk, a family in turmoil, and a young boy becoming a man.



14 year-old Carl lives in Loyalty Island, a small fisher's village in Washington. His father, as mostly all men in town, works on the Gaunt fleet and spends more time on the water than at home with his family.

When John Gaunt passes away and his son Richard inherits the company, the town's people are suddenly reliant on a young man who seems to have no interest in keeping the family legacy going and may even sell the fleet, putting all their jobs at risk. Carl experiences first hand how far the villagers are willing to go to save their livelihoods.

The novel is beautifully written but focuses more on the prose than on establishing a storyline, which is an at least equally important aspect of creating a successful read. In fact, it is not until the midway mark that the plot is revealed and it becomes engaging from a reader's perspective. Unnecessary flicking between past and present also added to the slowness of the first half.

The premise is certainly an interesting one and when I did get to the part of the story that was more action-driven I was on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately this only lasted for a handful of chapters before the story started to drag again and I lost complete interest in what was going to happen to the main protagonist.

Add to that poor characterisation (the dialogue given to the two teenage leads often made them seem adults yet other times they came across as small children) and lack of direction for the majority of the story and the execution ultimately failed what could have been an intriguing and spine-chilling novel.

Many thanks to Lovereading for a review copy of the novel!

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