The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan – Part (pages 1 – 74)

Welcome to The Word On The Street Book Club!

We’ve selected four great Canadian reads by authors appearing at the 2015 festival as part of our second summer book club. We’ll be discussing the books each week for the next month, and on September 27th, everyone will have the chance to meet the authors in person at Harbourfront Centre.

Share your views in the comments of the blog, using the questions posed by our book club leaders as a jumping-off point for any other thoughts or questions you may have.

The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan CoverThe Man Who Saved Henry Morgan
Robert Hough

Book Club Leader: Karen Ma
Blog: One More Page

Karen Ma has been a bookworm her whole life and can often be found reading and walking at the same time. Her love of books inspired her to create her blog, One More Page, which has been featured on CBC Books’ “Canadian Blogs” section. When she’s not reading, Karen can be found playing board games, watching TV, and looking at cute animal pictures online.

Take it away, Karen!

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to discuss The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan with you all. As I mentioned in my bio, I’m a huge board game lover, so I’m really enjoying reading about a main character with such a strong connection to chess!

We will be discussing the book in 4 parts, so here’s the chapter breakdown:

Part 1 – Ch 1-9 (pg. 74)
Part 2 – Ch 9-15 (pg. 153)
Part 3 – Ch 15-24 (pg. 242)
Part 4 – Ch 24 – End

On to my questions…

  1. What were your first impressions of Benny Wand, our narrator and main character?
  1. As a professional chess player, Wand seems to always be calculating his next move. But in the tale that he tells his fellow privateers (pg. 38), he gets angry and we see a more impulsive side to him. Do you think he was justified in doing what he did to the man in Devon? Do you think Benny is malicious, or is he just looking out for himself?
  1. In this part, we’re introduced to Henry Morgan and see his first expedition play out. What are your first impressions of him? Do you think he’s a good leader? Why or why not?

Feel free to bring up your questions in the comments as well!


13 thoughts on “The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan – Part (pages 1 – 74)

  1. 1. I really liked Benny straight away! He reminded me of a grown up Oliver Twist, or Jamal from Slumdog Millionaire: not exactly cynical, but aware of his place in the world, and willing to work with that, rather than fight or succumb to it. He was funny, self loathing without being depressed, laid back, very go with the flow. He didn’t acknowledge it, but chess seemed a natural extension of an innate intelligence and survival instinct. I liked that he treated his chess mastery as a gift that could be lost rather than something he studied and worked for. I thought that I would find the “Mockney” narrator voice incredibly grating, but it grew on me. I liked his toughness, and how he made decisions quickly after efficiently considering his options. Usually the narrator doesn’t have a fully formed personality, and is instead a passive observer, swept up in the events. I liked that he had some ownership over his life and that his decisions had an effect on the outcome of things.

    2. I didn’t think of it as malicious, but that he was sizing up the personalities of the men around them, and seeking to integrate himself. Benny is very self aware. He’s sort of, this is who I am, accept me. He’s not combative. I think this was his way of making getting cheated at chess a universal experience that these men could relate to. I thought that Benny had a professional athlete’s view of chess: something that he was extraordinarily great at, but didn’t necessarily enjoy. It’s work to him. I suspect that this story would have a different outcome for a different audience. He has to really think for a while about something from his past that would make him fit in. He doesn’t seem like an attention seeker.

    3. I worried that Captain Morgan would be an outsized Capt Jack Sparrow character, a living legend (like his namesake rum!). I was quite pleased that he was more like Ned Stark — thoughtful, deliberate, kept council, democratic, a killer with conscience. I liked that his convictions landed with a thud. He said no to ideas, without demeaning the speaker. I also really liked that he (probably anachronistic, but whatever) viewed the Natives on the island as partners, confidents, and as people with integrity who deserved to have an opinion. He didn’t have a saviour or an enslaver complex, which made him far more likeable. I’ve always liked heroes who are taciturn and focused without being cruel.

      • I may be the only person in the universe who hasn’t watched the Pirates of the Caribbean series… so I can’t really say! He’s definitely a fascinating narrator though!

    • I have to say, I really liked Benny from the start too! He seems like a straight shooter, and really intelligent. I also liked Captain Morgan, and can’t wait to see where the story goes with his relationship with Benny.

  2. Hi everyone! I’m really enjoying the book because it feels like I’m reading a good old-fashioned adventure. My first impression of Benny is that he seems quite level-headed for someone his age. I don’t know whether this is due to his background and previous experiences. When he attacked the man in Devon, I viewed this action as part of an act to get money from the man and protect his reputation as a chess player. Maybe I need to read that part again. Captain Morgan is a mysterious character right now. I think more needs to be revealed about him for me to form an opinion. He definitely appears confident as a decision-maker.

    • I definitely feel like I’m on an adventure when reading the book! You know, I definitely agree with you that Benny seems mature/level-headed for his age. It was surprising for me to read the first part again and realize that he’s only 20. Do you think he had to grow up quickly because of his circumstances?

      I can’t wait to hear what you think of Captain Morgan after reading part 2!

  3. I like Lizzie’s comparisons of Benny to Oliver Twist or Jamal. In my first impression, I thought of Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair, based on the way Benny is always taking stock of his situation and assets and using them to ‘move up a level’ if he can.

    I didn’t really know whether or not to trust the story Benny told about the man from Devon. It really did seem like a story tailored to please his audience. His impulsiveness does seem genuine, every time he gets smashed among the turtles. Should keep things interesting!

    I’ve enjoyed this first section! I especially like how vividly Hough evokes the settings.

  4. 1. In light of everything that happens later on, Benny’s… understanding, I guess, of the judge and human nature (“The world was filled with people who couldn’t bear to be in their own company, and it made no difference if you were rich or poor, loved or loathed. Sometimes, there was only one thing for it”) seems both unexpectedly compassionate and also massive foreshadowing.

    2. I had to Google it, but George Carlin said, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” I feel like there’s a side of Benny that’s loyal to the people he sees at his people and gets pissed off at when smaller people get screwed over by bigger ones–to an extent, but it’s there.

    3. I think Morgan is trying to do the right thing as much as possible in this mission, and I appreciate at the same time that he thinks like Benny does–he thinks like a chess player who doesn’t want to sacrifice any pieces if he can help it.

  5. 1. I think for me it took a while for an impression of Benny to form. For the first 50 pages or so I was sort of waiting to see who I was really dealing with: a noble criminal or a straight up villain. I’m still not sure which I would have preferred, but Benny does have a nobility about him, both in the sense that he plays chess which is a noble’s game and as seen in his interactions with Morgan later on. I’m not quite finished the book yet, but I’m still withholding judgment. I believe that Benny has a moral character similar to Robin Hood, but I’m starting to question some of his judgments the more expeditions he goes on with Morgan.

    2. I don’t know whether I think of his actions as malicious, but rather reckless. For someone who is so calculating and who probably knows where making a fuss can land him, it seemed odd to me that he would have such an outburst. Again, I say that it wasn’t a malicious act because Benny doesn’t exactly go around starting brawls everywhere he goes. I think in that moment he was guided by that noble criminal moral compass – or for those of you familiar with the alignment system, chaotic good, meaning that he will ultimately do what he believes is the right thing though not necessarily following any system of established law. In this particular event, he was in the right to do what he did because he was owed the money and the other man refusing to pay up would be seen as morally dishonest. While reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of Benny as Captain Mal archetype (Firefly).

    3. In the first expedition, I was blown away by Morgan’s ability to lead calmly and coolly – especially once we learned that he had known it was a trap and had been planning something. Morgan is very perceptive, and definitely a foil to Benny. He had no problem turning down the opinions of the other captains, which made him seem pretty strong and sure of himself, which are usually great qualities in a leader. However, he doesn’t particularly value human life, as much as he says he does. He knew that he might be sacrificing the slaves to a gruesome death, and didn’t seem perturbed by it in the slightest.
    What happens in the next exhibition only makes him more questionable.

    • I think I immediately categorized Benny as “noble criminal”, though I agree that it will be interesting to see if this changes later in the book. I wonder if the large amount of money the privateers gained from the expedition will go to their heads or not. I think your assessment of Benny having a noble criminal moral compass is spot-on. (Or, at least, it aligns with how I feel.) I was horrified by what happens in the next expedition… I can’t wait to chat about it on Monday!

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