Lieutenant-Commander, the hero of this novel, is axed from the Navy at the age of 36, one of many thousands obliged to re-plan their lives as the result of cuts in the armed services. A widower with a small daughter, he has no experience or knowledge outside submarines and the Royal Navy. His whole life had been that of a sailor since he joined up direct from school at the beginning of the war. This is not only the story of his struggles and adventures when he tries to find some way of earning his living; it is the story of his difficulty in adjusting himself to an unfamiliar civilian world. Monica Dickens's novel is the story of all such men in any of the services who find themselves so rudely thrust into the ordinary life of their country which, though they have served unselfishly, they find they are ill-equipped to live in. Written with the lighter humorous touch of some of her earlier books, it is a sympathetic presentation of the human side of one of those mass adjustments forced on society by the changing nature of the world and its affairs.
Great granddaughter to Charles Dickens, Monica (1915-1992) was born into an upper middle class family. Disillusioned with the world she was brought up in - she was expelled from St Paul’s Girls School in London for throwing her school uniform over Hammersmith Bridge - Dickens then decided to go into service, despite coming from the privileged class; her experiences as a cook and general servant would form the nucleus of her first book, One Pair Of Hands in 1939. Dickens married an American Navy officer, Roy O. Stratton, and spent much of her adult life in Massachusetts and Washington D.C., but the majority of writing continued to be set in Britain. Her book of 1953, No More Meadows, reflected her work with the NSPCC and she later helped to found the American Samaritans in Massachusetts. Between 1970 and 1971 she wrote a series of children’s books known as The Worlds End Series which dealt with rescuing animals, and to some extent children. After the death of her husband in 1985, Dickens returned to England where she continued to write until her death aged 77.
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Monica Dickens's books are usually enjoyable - light, funny, often moving. Man Overboard was quite simply dreadful. I couldn't engage with any of the characters and found the story quite pointless. And the narration was, quite simply, dreadful - more suited to a Famous Five story than a theoretically adult book. The wrong words were inflected in the reading, many were mispronounced, the "females" sounded like John Cleese playing a woman, and the whole thing was delivered in a breathless rush. A sad disappointment.
Dickens at Her Best.
After finishing reading this I immediately read it again. I didn't want to lose the characters
who had become my friends. It is years since I last read a Monica Dickens novel and I had forgotten how great she was, This story is vastly entertaining, amusing and yet serious.
Ben learning how to become a 'demon salesman'
Performance was very good. Perfect for this story and his talent for different voices is
Keep on rowing Commander!