By: Christopher Madsen
Publisher: CMP Publishing
Publication Date: August 2015
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: August 16, 2015
When I was first asked if I would be interested in reviewing Rowdy, a non-fictional story about the renovation of a 1916 yacht, I don't think I realized what I was getting myself into. I do love books featuring historical ‘look-backs’ which is why I had readily agreed to read this book. However, upon its arrival, I was understandably stunned by the book’s massiveness and the words ''it's like a museum in a box'' flitted through my head. (Rowdy was so large that it arrived in a box – hence the reference).
Viewing this book for the first time, I imagine I felt a teeny tiny sense of the same ''what have I gotten myself into" that Christopher Madsen, the book's author and Rowdy's renovator, undoubtedly felt upon realizing he now had ownership of this rather derelict 1916 yacht – a sailing vessel (that unbeknownst to him then) had an amazing story to share.
Rowdy (the book) is divided into several accountings – and each one is engrossingly interesting. To say that I struggled to set this book down is an understatement. So, after Madsen's initial ‘about me’ (and his newest project) introduction, the reader will then be privy to his first phone call with Harriet Anne Duell. Harriet, who prefers to be called Hanny, is the last living child of Holland Duell – Rowdy’s original owner. Almost two years after that initial phone call, Hanny decided to pay a visit to the now renovated yacht that she hasn’t set foot on in 83 years. “Wow” is also an understatement.
After meeting Madsen in person, and after scampering around the yacht as if she were once again 10, Hanny gifts Madsen with the ‘Pandora's Box’ (or the holy grail as the case may be) of previously unknown-to-him information from Rowdy's original owner – Holland’s writings during World War One (which he later published as The History of the 306th Field Artillery). This is where the next section of Rowdy begins, and is labeled “The Journal.”
“The Journal” allows the reader to experience a first-hand accounting of the events that transpired from May 11, 1917 through May 10, 1919. Madsen also did a remarkable job of searching out and supplementing additional facts for these two years; making this section read as if it was Holland’s personal diary/journal. It was certainly an eye-opening and riveting look at a small time period within World War I; complete with drawings, diagrams, photographs and other remembrances from these years.
After the reader completes “The Journal” section, he/she will then learn about the Duell’s family history, including career choices (political and/or otherwise). Looking back almost one hundred years through time, I must say that familial ‘drama’ existed even then – it just seems we were a bit more ‘refined’ in how we dealt with it then…
I really don’t want to provide any further information about this book – I don’t want to take anything away from the reader’s journey of discovery. Rowdy is certainly a wonderful read. It’s interesting, well-written and provides a consistent stream of historical facts.
Quill says: If you’re a lover of reading anything nautical and/or historical then Rowdy will simply suck you in – not spitting you back out until you reach its conclusion.