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HENDERSON’S SPEAR by Ronald Wright


by Ronald Wright

Pub Date: March 5th, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-6996-8
Publisher: Henry Holt

A grand family saga, played out over several centuries, continents, and oceans, from novelist and nature writer Wright (A Scientific Romance, 1998, etc.).

In April 1990, Olivia Wyvern writes to the daughter she placed for adoption years ago of the events that led to her incarceration in Tahiti. Liv’s father, an RAF pilot who served in the Korean War, disappeared during a mission over the Yalu; his family lived ever after in a state of emotional suspended animation. As a young woman, Liv was so desperate for news of her father that she even allowed herself to be seduced by an imposter who claimed to have come upon evidence of his fate—which is why she gave up the resulting baby. Sorting out the old family house after her mother died, Liv discovered a journal written by the previous owner, a childless relation who spent much of his life abroad as a naval officer. The journal, she states, reveals “the wheel of cause and effect, set in motion by Frank Henderson, which has rolled down upon our lives through a century.” It relates Henderson’s adventures at sea and on land, foremost among them being the three years he spent aboard the HMS Bacchante in the company of two royals: dissolute Prince Eddy, grandson of Queen Victoria and heir presumptive to the throne, and his younger brother Prince George, who in fact became King George V in 1910. The story from Henderson’s pages is framed by Liv’s own, more private drama. She’s in Tahiti searching for the truth behind her father’s disappearance when she’s arrested on bogus murder and espionage charges. Then she receives word of her long-lost daughter. It never rains but it pours—in Britain and the South Seas, at least.

Despite quite a few plots unfolding at the same time, the author manages to keep all his balls in the air at once and never lets the pace lag. Well done indeed.