|The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences . . .
Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
Behind the Book
Consider my book, The Man Who was Poe. On page 139 of the paperback edition, one of the characters, Captain Elias, says to Edmund, the boy hero of that book, “Now, Master Edmund, if you’ve time to hear a good yarn, I’ve one for you. You see, the Lady Liberty had a sister ship. Seahawk, her name was—” Captain Elias’ yarn was, of course, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the Seahawk being the ship in which Charlotte’s story takes place. How did this happen? As I was writing the book about Edgar Allan Poe, since he invented mystery stories, I was thinking about them a lot.
His Murders in the Rue Morgue is said to be not only the first mystery story, it came to be known as a “locked-room mystery.” That’s to say, something happens in a locked room that—because the room was locked—defies explanation. As I worked on the Poe book, I began to think: what could be more of a “locked room” than a ship in the middle of the ocean? That was the origin of True Confessions, and so it appears in the Poe book because that’s what I was thinking at the time. Now of course, as I wrote True Confessions it evolved into something quite beyond a mystery. But, if you read the book carefully, you can see there is an element of a murder mystery there. And that’s the way it began—in another book!
As for the title, when I thought of it, I assumed it would not work because there must be a million books with a similar title. But when I checked, to my amazement, there was not one. Happy to grab it.
Awards and Honors
Newbery Honor Book, 1991
School Library Journal:
“On a long, grueling journey from England to Rhode Island in 1802, a 12-year-old changes from a prim and proper girl to a swashbuckling mate of a mutinous crew and is accused of murder by the captain. Awash with shipboard activity, intense feelings, and a keen sense of time and place, the story is a throwback to good old-fashioned adventure yarns on the high seas . . . . A breathtaking seafaring adventure.”