A Lady’s Captivity among Chinese Pirates

A Lady's Captivity Among Chinese PiratesA Lady’s Captivity Among Chinese Pirates by Fanny Loviot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a tale of adventure and travel, with all the sights and perils that abounded in 1850’s humanity. Oh, and there was a little bit of pirate action as well. Of course, if you’re on the receiving end of that pirating, a little is more than enough.

Two French sisters set out from France to seek their fortune in gold rush mad California, with a presumptive nine lives in tow, as evidenced by the schooner they had commissioned for their journey. It was a questionable tub, and the general consensus was that it would never make it around the Cape. Obviously, it did navigate the cape successfully, and eventually they landed in California, but not before Fanny gave her version of de facto home movies detailing the stops she made. Once in San Francisco, she gave an interesting account of life as it existed in that city at the time. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Cosmopolitan probably wouldn’t be the word to describe it; more like the wild west with hotels, and hey, some of the streets were even paved!

Eventually, Fanny meets another woman who invites her on a fateful trip that would form the core of this story. I use the term core rather loosely, because although the episode with the pirates certainly was gripping, given that it is based in fact, the majority of the book deals with her adventure if you will, and most of that occurred far away from anything that resembled piracy. Leaving her sister behind in California, Fanny sets off like a globe trotting gypsy, the planning for this adventure clearly on a generic, if not haphazard model.

More than a third of book goes by before we get to the pirates; Not that the first third wasn’t interesting, but I just wanted to get to the pirate story and skip the roaming travel brochure. But finally we did get to the pirates, the junk sailing, ship plundering marauders who took their ship without a struggle.

Now you would think that a woman being confronted by a gruesome lot of pirates would be preparing herself for ravagement. But not so with these animals. Apparently, they had some kind of daily worship ritual, and whether it was religious in nature or not wasn’t clear. What was clear is that they were forbidden from fraternizing with aliens. White girl Fannie fit that description, and as a result, she was not harmed-in that way. Of course, she was treated like garbage for the most part, but not a one tried to bang her, except one who she described as having wanting to “fly” with her. Not sure what that meant and she didn’t elaborate, and in fact, that issue was put to rest very quickly. Yes, racism saved her from being gang raped by brutal pirates, but it didn’t save her from being mistreated. Thrown in a hold with rats, spiders and other flesh chewing entities was a nightmare in and of itself, and while reading this I had to ask myself about toilet issues. She had to have been forced to soil herself (in more ways than one), but that was never discussed in the book. Then, why would you detail the obvious?

After reading sea descriptions from the likes of Cooper, Fenn and Jack London, hers fall a little short; but then she wasn’t a sea faring woman; she was just a passenger. Still, I struggled with a picture of and the gravity of the scenes. An entire book could have focused soley on what happened in captivity. It sounded horrifyingly riveting, although it was lacking in the lurid detail that could have made a monster book. Instead, it turned out to be a bad few weeks in what was a trip that encompassed several years. In the end, none of the good folks died, and she apparently fully recovered from her crucible. No doubt the defining experience of her life.

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