Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 150
The 290 seems set fair to be a roistering yarn about a young seaman aboard a Confederate raider. The foreword gives the clue to the disappointment of the book, however: the story is based very firmly on historical fact. As a result, the novel is almost a documentary, since one episode does not precipitate another in the patterned way we expect of narrative.
The painstaking research becomes a straitjacket. A sailor is taken on board, leads a mutiny and is dismissed, never to be seen again. It does not matter to a reader that this actually happened historically—he is left wondering what the point of the incident is in the story. The book would be thoroughly useful background reading in a history project on the American Civil War, but is a succession of anti-climaxes as a novel.
Geoff Fox, "Moments of Truth," in The Times Educational Supplement, No. 3269, February 3, 1978, p. 36.∗