The Accidental Stowaway

Authored by Judith Eagle
Illustrated by Kim Geyer
Published by Faber & Faber

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Esme Leonard, with her persistent frown and grumpiness, lay claim to the moniker ‘Crosspatch’ from the moment she was born. Abandoned by her mother, Patch, as she became known, was passed from one distant, decreasingly wealthy relative to another: none being able nor willing to soften her grumpiness or tame her fierce independence. Exposure to her ancestral grandeur and wealth allowed Patch to become imbued with the social etiquette demanded by higher society. Skills that would prove to be very useful to her as her story unfolds.

Having run out of relatives to take her in, Patch was eventually dispatched from London to Liverpool to reside with an unknown family friend. And this is where her life becomes even more adventurous than she could have imagined, or even wished for: for this is where she became the accidental stowaway on the RMS Glorious. The RMS Glorious is the largest, fastest, and most magnificent steamer travelling the Atlantic to New York in 1910.

Despite her determination to remain a hidden stowaway, Patch is discovered by Lillian, a young well-seasoned lone traveller. Bonded by their shared loneliness, these intrepid young adventurers embark on what becomes a perilous five-day journey filled with highs, lows, secrets, lies, truths, and seasickness. Having managed to gain access to a master key for the ship, the girls are free to explore their surroundings, from the first-class decks through the kitchens and into the engine rooms. Along the way, they encounter an array of colourful characters who become intrinsic to the development of the story. As the story unfolds, it is evident that each has an important part to play.

Written in the third person, the importance of friendship, loyalty, trust, and belonging are explored from Patch’s perspective. Self-doubt and the loss of belief in others’ actions and motives are experienced and deliberated over from her point of view. Although in places the narrative loses its rhythm, and cadences of authentic dialogue, Eagle has created a generally well-paced and exciting story that is full of surprises and a strong cast of supporting characters. I can easily imagine my 9-year-old self fully immersed in this story, rapidly turning the pages in the early hours by clandestine torchlight. And for this, Eagle can easily be forgiven for including the eating of coronation chicken, despite it not being introduced to the discerning English palate for another 43 years.

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