Book Review: Coot Club

Coot Club is the fifth novel in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. There are 12 books in the series in total.

The book is about Dick and Dorothea, who visit the Norfolk Broads during the Easter holidays, keen to learn how to sail. They meet a new group of friends – members of the eponymous Coot Club – and explore the North and South Broads together.

The start of Coot Club was bonkers but fun. Likewise, the ending was funny and enjoyable. However, the parts in between were not as entertaining.

Lots of new characters are introduced – too many, I think – as well as the names of the boats they each sail. This made it incredibly difficult to remember who was who and which boat was which. These new characters didn’t seem to be developed in any detail – excluding Tom, who was suitably independently-minded and witty and William the pug, who was arguably the most characterised of the entire cast.

Furthermore, Port and Starboard, the girl twins with an aptitude for sailing – hence the nicknames – felt like a weaker version of Nancy and Peggy from the previous books.

I think part of my issue with Coot Club was having only just become acclimatised to the “original” characters (John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy, Peggy, Dick and Dorothea) and the original Lake District setting, Ransome introduces new characters, in a new setting, with a new story. And they say people don’t like change…

Given the title, Coot Club not only involves a lot of sailing but bird-watching too – especially of coots.  I liked the variety of birds identified and described by Dick; I’m trying to spot and remember types of British birds myself at the minute and this reinforced some in my memory.

My Photo [Coot Club 2]
‘Coots can be found in large numbers, along numerous waterways up and down the country’. Image via Canal River Trust

Coot Club took me a lot longer to enjoy, and it eventually became a struggle to read. This is such a shame because I’ve enjoyed reading the series so far. Oh well, I can’t have everything.

– Judith


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