The Romantics in question are Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Godwin, who are bored out of their minds in a villa they are sharing in drizzly Geneva, Switzerland, and just raring for some adventure. Enter the Pirate Captain and his crew, including the Pirate with a Scarf (his first mate), the Pirate with Gout, Jennifer, the Albino Pirate, and all the rest. For a reasonable price, the hard-up Pirate Captain charges the Romantics for an adventure they’ll never forget.
But there are complications. The Pirates don’t exactly know how to produce an adventure, besides hoping one will turn up on their doorstep. And the Pirate Captain seems to be developing quite a crush on Mary. Is it possible that their shared interests in monsters might bring them closer together?
[The Pirate Captain and his crew, as they appeared in the recent Aardman Animations film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits]
As in his other books, Defoe peppers the story with eccentric notes to the reader. If it happens that one is unfamiliar with Mary Godwin, Defoe tells the reader that “Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her father, William Godwin, who was a bit better at titles, wrote ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.'” Funny and informative.
Defoe’s depiction of Byron, with a booming voice, reminiscent of British actor Brian Blessed, is always amusing. Mary Godwin comes across as smart and even sassy. Shelley fares the worst—possibly Defoe is no great fan of his poetry. He certainly casts doubt on why Godwin and Shelley ever managed to get together.
Their adventures take them from the Lakes of Geneva to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and to a remote and ghostly castle in the Carpathian mountains. We learn a little bit more about the intrepid and always self-confident Pirate Captain, such as his flair for writing pulp fiction and a mysterious belly tattoo.
Defoe, who, as his bio states, “is a bit of a one-trick pony,” is definitely onto something good with his Pirates! series. The books are a rollicking read, full of laughs and lots of fun for readers who spot some of his literary in-jokes. The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics is most entertaining, and hopefully The Pirate Captain and his crew will continue their adventures for some time to come.