Recently I blogged about the film Oranges and Sunshine, which explores the UK’s enforced child migration scheme. Since then I discovered that the scheme also provided the inspiration for a novel by the wonderful Michael Morpurgo, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea. Expatriation from England as a young orphan has scarred Arthur Hobhouse’s life. A boat-builder in his mid-sixties, he looks back on the hardships, losses and abuses he experienced, and their impact on him: aimless drifting over many years, gambling and despair. Despite its unflinching depiction of childhood and adult suffering, the book is by no means all bleak. Arthur has also known true friendship, wonderful parenting from an unusual and mesmeric woman deep in the bush, a life-enhancing bond with boats and the sea, and finally, in middle age, redemption, with love and fatherhood. There is unexpected excitement too, as sixty years after her father’s trip from one side of the world to the other, his daughter Allie sails single-handedly to England in a yacht designed by him, determined to trace the sister he lost all that time ago.
This is a powerful and moving book.