Book Review: Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion #RBRT #sailing adventure #pychological thriller

The Draca is a vintage sailing cutter built in 1905. Her owner is Eddie Ahlquist, an old man dying of cancer. She lies beached at a marine, slowly falling into decay due to the ravages of time as her owner also fails. Eddie’s grandson, Jack, is a former Marine in his Her Majesty’s armed services, who has returned from service in the Middle East minus a foot and part of his leg, beset with PTSD, and carrying a load of guilt from the deaths of two of his fellow Marines, one who died with him and one who died trying to rescue him. Jack is the one member of the dysfunctional Alquist family who truly cares for Eddie and he tries to spend as much time with him as possible.

Eddie has earned the epithet ‘Mad Eddie” because of his wild sailing of Draca before he became too ill to continue. He had found a four-foot-long piece of ancient timber carved into the neck and head of a snarling dragon which he made into the figurehead for Draca. The figurehead now sits in his garden and Eddie talks to it when Jack is not around, thinking he sees the outline of a huge, looming figure coming through the trees toward his cottage.

When Eddie dies, Jack inherits Draca as well as his grandfather’s cottage, his diaries, and his library of Viking literature. Jack’s father, an overbearing and greedy man with whom Jack has an adversarial relationship for his entire life, does not understand why Eddie’s estate did not go to him and vows to fight Eddie’s will in court.

Jack moves into the cottage while the will is in probate and, with a suggestion that restoring the Draca might help him with his lasting emotional and physical problems, takes out loans against Eddie’s estate. He immediately dives into the difficult work of bringing Draca back to her original condition.  As he does, the serpent figurehead seems to capture his psyche as it had his grandfather’s, and he also sees the looming figure amongst the trees. He is drawn to the figurehead and Draca as if they both have a hold on him.

This is a terrific book on many levels: the struggles of a veteran with physical and emotional baggage for the time of his service; the warped interactions of a family with a bully for a father and husband; Jack’s own crumbling marriage; the exhilaration of sailing, especially on this old, restored schooner; a developing love between Jack and a young woman, George, who runs the boatyard where Draca is moored; and the growing hold of Draca and the figurehead on Jack. There is also interspersed between the chapters excerpts from a Viking story, the ‘saga of King Guthrum,’ with a strong indication that the figurehead derives from a Viking ship in the saga and that it is cursed. Will figurehead claim Jack’s life to satisfy the curse?

The characters are wonderfully created. Jack is a finely tuned rendering of a veteran with PTSD, old Eddie is both loveable and frightening in his final madness, and Harry, Jack’s father, is a villain – perhaps a little heavy-handed, but still believable. George is at the same time both incredibly naïve (she doesn’t recognize when Charlotte, Jack’s wife, tries to draw her into a lesbian affair and that left me scratching my head) and equally brave, as she tries to heal Jack and at the end risks her own life to save him in a horrific storm at sea.

As a sailor, all the descriptions of sailing and the rigging and sails of Draca, especially at sea and in the wind, were both familiar and exciting. This might not be so for someone who has never sailed, although I believe any reader can loosely follow the action.  Having the drawing of Draca for reference was a good help.

In short, this is a rollicking tale, both down to earth and also unearthly, combining many elements into a fine story. I strongly recommend it.

About the author

Geoffrey Gudgion served for over 10 years in the armed forces and made his first attempts at writing fiction during quiet moments on deployment. He later stepped off the corporate ladder, in the midst of a career in marketing and general management, specifically to release time to write. Freelance consultancy paid the bills. His first novel, Saxon’s Bane, reached #1 in Kindle’s ‘Ghost’ category, and he now writes full time. When not crafting words Gudgion is an enthusiastic amateur equestrian and a very bad pianist.

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion #RBRT #sailing adventure #pychological thriller”

  1. Noelle it was an unexpected pleasure to find Draca reviewed on your blog, especially in such generous terms. Thank you! I’m very happy to field any questions, if you wish. Geoff

    1. No questions, since I was there every moment of the sails! I started with a Class 10, crewed a Columbia 50, and then captained a Shields class 6 meter racing hull. Maybe I can grab you for an interview or guest post?

      1. Noelle my apologies, I’ve only just seen this. Very happy to do an i/v or guest post. Shall we ‘talk’ via email? Mine is And as to sailing, I was taught in a Nicholson 44 off Dartmouth, and then there was a long gap before I crewed for a friend in his Moody 33. I’m actually not very experienced, but am able to talk up a good storm’s waves so they get higher with every telling. Very best, Geoff

  2. petespringerauthor

    Excellent review, Noelle. I haven’t had as much reading time lately, but The Last Pilgrim is waiting for me on my Kindle along with about ten other books. I don’t know about you, but I go through these phases where I read a lot, and then due to life’s circumstances, I seem to have very little time.

    1. Me, too. I am trying to catch up with books on Rosie’s Book Review Team’s list. This was one of them. Let me know what you think of The Last Pilgrim!

  3. I did think of you, Noelle, as I was reading this book, as I know you love sailing and have included it in your own novels, and thought you’d appreciate the details, but you’re right, it can be enjoyed nonetheless even if one doesn’t know much about sailing. I agree. It’s a rollicking good read. Thanks, Noelle, for a wonderful review of a book I love as well.

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