Frances Wilson

Spectator Books of the Year: The man who stole Captain Cook’s thunder

Spectator Books of the Year: The man who stole Captain Cook's thunder
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Hot on the heels of his books about the Bible and the Queen comes A.N. Wilson’s witty, learned, utterly self-possessed novel Resolution (Atlantic, £16), about the turbulent life of George Forster. He was the Polish-born, Warrington-raised, multi-lingual Enlightenment scholar-scientist who, aged 18, was appointed botanist on board the Resolution. His popular account of the voyage pipped Captain Cook’s own book to the post. So Wilson’s Forster is a guilty man, a protégé who murdered his master: ‘It now amazes me that I had the gall, the sheer cheek, to write my Voyage book. I wrote it fast. We finished it before Cook. It sold well — only now do I see how justifiably angry the Captain must have been! I’d done more than jump the gun. I’d violated him.’ Forster’s own protégé, Alexander Humboldt, praised him for combining scientific accuracy with ‘the vivifying breath of imagination’. This is also A.N. Wilson’s achievement. Best novel of the year.

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