The Straits of Tsushima by Tim Chant is a historical fiction novel set during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and follows British ex-naval officer Marcus Baxter and his desperate attempt to return home after being captured by the Russian navy.
Baxter must deal with his perilous situation while trying to keep his sanity in check and making friends with Tommy Dunbar, the 12-year old son of Baxter’s landlady who somehow sneaked on board a naval vessel as part of a British naval intelligence plot.
After demonstrating how useful he is to the crew, a bond begins to form between him and the officers. There is also a countess who becomes intertwined with the plot and Baxter himself (as the love interest).
There were places where the pace slowed to a crawl and seemed to go on far longer than necessary. I felt the involvement of British intelligence was far fetched as was the appearance of Dunbar, and there was never a true explanation of where Baxter had come from nor why he had left the navy in disgrace although there are some hints along the way. Even the countess’ presence didn’t make real sense especially as the wife of a senior officer on board a Russian naval ship during wartime.
The novel covers seven months – nearly all at sea – terrific sea battles, sabotage, Marxists, Russian, Japanese and British, and uses old fashioned English terms that take a while to get to grips with.
Saying all that, the sea battles and what has to be endured at sea and on land does make this a good read for those who enjoy historical fiction or something different to read. The book is long and there are scenes I thought were unbelievable.
Sapere Books gave me this book in exchange for an honest review.