The engrossing story of the seven merchant ships and their naïve young crew member is interwoven with the tale of Ronald’s own family, who had, three generations ago, escaped from the pogroms of Eastern Europe to start a new life in London.
Fascinating and always entertaining, whether regaling us with tales of scams in Petticoat Lane or smuggling and corrupt officials in Latin America, evoking memorable journeys through Suez and Panama or life as an evacuee in the potteries, encountering a Hollywood princess in Monaco or a good time girl in the sultry south, Ronald Phillips guides us through his early years with candour and wit.
Peopled with a cast of eccentrics from the cousin who could not boil an egg, but became cook to the stars, to the Garden Suburbs hostess that tamed the Australian outback with gentility and a will of iron; not to mention a flirtatious grandmother who never committed bigamy outside the family, could hold her gin with the sailors and was nice to the soldiers, this is as much a book about family and romance as it is an engaging travelogue and glimpse into a kaleidoscope of colourful cultures.
Seven Ships took our hero around the world: Maloja, Rangitiki, Stratheden, Modasa, Arcadia, Chusan and Argentina Star, and an eighth (Empire Fowey) nearly took him to war. And they showed him a disappearing world:
Africa and India coming to terms with new identities and old established traditions, Australia and New Zealand asserting their own approach to the wider world, South America playing by very different rules and a Europe that is all but forgotten today.
Other ships carried the family to other adventures through the years - escaping tyrany in the Baltic and forging friendships across the Thames.
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