Watch for a Tall White Sail by Margaret E. Bell
Back in elementary school, I would flip through the back pages of my reader, because the excerpts I read for class always left me wanting more. I read Barbara Gilbert’s A Dance to Still Music, Marguerite Henry’s Mustang, and many others, as a result. Then, there were recommended books that the editors suggested if I liked the offered choices. Among them was Margaret E. Bell’s Watch for a Tall, White Sail. I thought the title sounded intriguing. It was out of print, so I discovered it on Amazon Marketplace and then didn’t read it for years. Hello, 2016, year of Reading the Books I Own.
The novel focuses on Florence Monroe, a teenaged girl in 1880s Victoria, BC. Her father has established a salmon saltery in the wilds of Alaska and has requested the whole family’s presence to help him run the business. While Florence’s mother and younger sister are going to live in the family home in town, she is being asked to help run the homestead with the brothers. Florence is at first shocked by being asked to grow up so quickly, but rises to the task. In the foreground is the handsome and brave young captain, Beldon Craig, whose ship brings news and supplies, as well as an object of admiration. Whether Florence and her brothers can tackle the winter, though, remains to be seen. It’s going to be a year of heartbreak and triumph for her family.
This is a wholesome and sweet little novel. While it might seem a little too saccharine for some, it certainly has a romantic and innocent appeal. It’s kind of like The Blue Castle in that it’s got the simplicity of a nice love story. I’m not saying this to be condescending—I read this at a moment where I needed a fairly simple story with a little romance, and I enjoyed it greatly.