I enjoyed Kingston by Starlight, by Christopher John Farley, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be at the beginning. The story takes place at the beginning of the 1700s and is told from the point of view of a older woman who, as a young woman, had pretended to be a man in order to work on a pirate ship in the Caribbean. I agree with the quotes on the cover that Farley’s writing is lyrical, beautiful, and descriptive, and this is part of what made it an enjoyable read. It was most certainly not just run of the mill adventure writing, even thought the essential plot outline could be considered an adventure story. He conveyed the feeling of the moment as much as the action, and at times the writing became philosophical or dreamy (which was appropriate, given that it was written from the main character’s point of view). However, there was something about the plot developments themselves that I felt didn’t quite live up to the potential of the writing. It is hard to pinpoint what it is – perhaps that everything was a little too pat and things happened faster or more unrealistically than I would have liked.
One aspect of Kingston by Starlight that made it particularly unusual and interesting is Farley’s treatment of gender roles. There are actually two women in the story who dress as men on the pirate ship, but the narrator mostly refers to the other one as “he” even after she has found out. I was amazed (and a little shocked) at my own reaction to the use of the pronouns he versus she, and how strongly they evoked different images in my mind. Clearly, I have not escaped the strong gender stereotyping in our culture (how could I?). The narrator and the other woman also referred to dressing as men as being more true to their true nature, which I found interesting as a comment on transgender people.
Overall, Kingston by Starlight was an interesting book, and I recommend it if you are looking for something light but a little different.