Part Three of the Strong Winds trilogy.
Having read and really enjoyed the first two parts of the Strong Winds trilogy, I braced myself for the final voyage and the realisation that ‘all good things must come to an end.’ I’d like to tell you I read this book in one sitting. But it was better than that. I so enjoyed it and so didn’t want it to end that I spaced it out over three sittings, revelling in thinking about it in between times. Imagining what might happen next. Sometimes guessing right and sometimes being amazed by the turns the narrative took. By now, I was familiar with the characters, I’d invested a lot of my life in their company and I cared deeply about what happened to each and every one of them. I reckoned I had a clue how things might end up but it was the getting there that was the joy.
That said, there is still plenty of adventure. You can’t really call it boy’s own adventure because it’s more substantial than that. It’s pretty much gender free adventure, appealing I’m sure to both genders – as indeed the Ransome books before them do. And as an aside, Julia Jones does Ransome quite a favour, I think. The references to his novels as Donny reads his way through them is surely enough to get anyone who has enjoyed Jones’ trilogy heading off to read the whole series of Ransome books if they haven’t already done so, and re-read them if they have. I held it in my mind that at least when I’d turned the final page of Ghosting Home, I’d be able to ‘come down’ from the excitement and defer the sense of loss by resorting to Ransome. Though I know that as soon as I have the time I’ll re-read the whole Strong Winds trilogy and I’m sure I’ll find things I missed the first time because for me one of the joys of a series or trilogy is that you can consume it singly to begin with and then as a whole afterwards, and as long as the work has enough depth you can get more out of it. This trilogy has depth.
Of course this is a novel about sailing too. I haven’t been sailing in years. But the beautiful descriptions of sailing in these novels just begs you to get onto a boat. However, for me, the most compelling part of Ghosting Home comes in the ‘man overboard’ experience. I cannot believe how well Jones has drawn this picture. I felt I was in the water with ‘him’ (I shan’t reveal who ‘him’ was). If you aren’t bothered by ships or sailing these books could make you fall in love with it. If you love ships and sailing I’m sure you’ll revel in descriptions of sailing which can only be described as breath-taking. And how Jones manages to keep it exciting page after page without resorting to hyperbole is a feat I’m still baffling over. But she does. Jones is as likely to send you out for a Chinese meal as sailing. When she writes about food it is every bit as compelling as her writing about the sea. She draws you right into whatever scenario she sets be that rural China, British coastal waters or the modern classroom.
This is a novel about people and I loved the Chinese aspects of the novel. There are interesting parallels between the social services and the Chinese Triads (I leave you to discover these for yourself!) and in Ghosting Home we find Donny’s Chinese counterpart in the young Min. Their stories are cleverly woven together without ever feeling contrived. There’s plenty of seeding from the earlier novels but Ghosting Home is still a fresh and original story.
The Strong Winds trilogy has a compelling cast to support Donny. In Ghosting Home we see him grow in maturity. He learns about people. He often still jumps the gun and misinterprets others motivations but he’s learning how to deal with his life and the various beats it takes. And the adults around him change with circumstance too. Families in all their glorious dysfunctionality abound in Ghosting Home and the many strands allow reflection from a variety of perspectives. The vulnerability of nearly everyone in the novel is to the fore in this final part. They all thought they were strong. I feared for their joint and several frailties.
What makes this not just a children’s or YA read is that the adults are as well drawn and ‘real’ as the children, and most of the time just as messed up. They are not always there to save the day, just as often they add to the problems. And this allows an adult to reflect and learn from Donny’s journey as much as a teenager might.
Ghosting Home was the last chance to have questions answered. I wanted to know if ‘Toxic’ and ‘Flint’ would get their just deserts. Would Donny find a father figure? How would his family situation pan out? What would happen to Anna and her family with their new found wealth? I’m not going to spoil it for you but it more than lived up to my very high expectations. It’s hard to pick apart the elements that make Ghosting Home so good without giving anything away but that’s what I’ve tried to do, because I would hate to spoil the voyage for anyone else. And of course in reading this review you may not have read ANY of the trilogy. If that’s the case, go back to The Salt Stained Book. Read it. You’ll be hooked and happy that A Ravelled Flag is there to take you on the next part of your journey and by the time you come to Ghosting Home you will be part of the fabric of the world that Julia has created. And you will care about what happens to them.
Reviewed by Cally Phillips
WARNING: The action’s so real it’ll make you sea sick and the culinary descriptions are so good you’ll want to order out for Chinese. So be careful. Chinese food and sea sickness can be a powerful combination
Ghosting Home is available in Kindle format
Find out more about Julia Jones
Review links for the other parts of the trilogy