Tom Dudgeon has cast off a motor cruiser from its moorings to protect a coot's nest, but now the cruiser is searching high and low for him - even offering a reward. Tom accepts an invitation for a week's cruise to teach his new friends, Dick and Dorothea how to sail. You couldn't get a better sailor than Tom but can he really stay one jump ahead of his pursuers long enough to complete the voyage?
Reviewed on 19th September 2011
Coot Club, the fifth book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, is the first book to feature neither the Amazons nor the Swallows. Instead it follows Dick and Dorothea, the siblings introduced in Winter Holiday, as they visit the Norfolk broads at Easter, and learn to sail with locals Tom, Port & Starboard, and the Death and Glories.
The book feels a slightly different style to Ransome's earlier novels, focussing much more on the setting than the characters to some extent. While Dick and Dot are returning, they seem less rounded than in the previous novel, and much less of the narrative is aligned with Dot than before. Tom is probably the main character, with Port and Starboard seeming almost like clones of Nancy and Peggy from the earlier books.
For me this means the book is less engaging - there is little by way of adventure until quite near the end of the story, and before then it is much about visiting places up and down the rivers that mean very little to me. I'm afraid to say that until the last few chapters I wasn't gripped and while reading my mind kept drifting away from the narrative and I found I had to skip back to work out where I was. I wonder if I may have felt the same when reading this as a child because I'm fairly sure this was not one of the books I read multiple times (along with its direct sequel The Big Six).
Overall, it's worth it if you want the full tales, but probably has little bearing on the series overall apart from bridging the gap between Winter Holiday and Pigeon Post, although if you know the area it may appeal more - perhaps I enjoy the lakes stories best because I know the locations and thus can more easily picture them.