Review: The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

the doldrums by nicholas gannon

Archer B. Helmsley has grown up in a house full of oddities and treasures collected by his grandparents, the famous explorers. He knows every nook and cranny. He knows them all too well. After all, ever since his grandparents went missing on an iceberg, his mother barely lets him leave the house.

Archer longs for adventure. Grand adventures, with parachutes and exotic sunsets and interesting characters. But how can he have an adventure when he can’t leave his house?

It helps that he has friends like Adélaïde L. Belmont, who must have had many adventures to end up with a wooden leg. (Perhaps from a run-in with a crocodile. Perhaps not.) And Oliver Glub. Oliver will worry about all the details (so that Archer doesn’t have to).

And so Archer, Adélaïde, and Oliver make a plan. A plan to get out of the house, out of their town entirely. It’s a good plan.

Well, it’s not bad, anyway.

But nothing goes quite as they expect.

Description taken from Goodreads.


Nicholas Gannon is no Trenton Lee Stewart, but he’s certainly made another sleepy, quirky book that might be appealing to young people. If anything, it’s very reminiscent of the way that Kate DiCamillo wrote the Tale of Despereaux. While the narration is slow and teeters on the edge of being contrived, it manages not to be by introducing a lovable main character and his two great sidekicks.

Who turn out to be less of sidekicks and more of generally great people.

Probably the greatest thing about The Doldrums for me was the characters. I didn’t find the themes or the setting particularly unique, but I absolutely loved getting to know Adélaïde, Archer and Oliver. They all stuck out to me and won me over by the end of the book, though Oliver took a little bit more than the other two. Adélaïde was my favorite, and she was a great character to see in middle-grade lit. In the face of overwhelming weirdness, it’s nice to have a calmer book like this.

Overall, I will be recommending this one. Once it gets going, the plot moves pretty quickly, and Archer’s desire for adventure was endearing and a common point throughout the novel. I enjoyed the character development that we were able to see her, and while the twists to this story aren’t particularly new, I enjoyed Gannon’s spins on them and I’m looking forward to seeing more. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 358

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