Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Title: The Cay
Author: Theodore Taylor
ISBN: 0-440-41663-9, Yearling, 2002
Genre: Young Adult historical fiction
Rating: A

First Line: Like silent, hungry sharks that swim in the darkness of the sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

It is 1942. Phillip Enright is eleven years old. He and his mother moved to the island of Curaçao off the coast of Venezuela when his father got a job with the Royal Dutch Shell oil refinery there. Phillip loves island life and thinks the sighting of German submarines is exciting until he sees one of his favorite ships torpedoed and sunk. His mother is homesick for her native Virginia, and the presence of the Germans makes her frantic with worry. Over everyone else's better judgment, she insists on taking Phillip with her back to Virginia.

The worst happens: their ship is attacked and sunk, and young Phillip (now injured and blind) finds himself marooned on a tiny island with an old black man named Timothy. Although Phillip's friends on Curaçao had much more relaxed attitude toward blacks, Phillip can't see, he's scared to death, and he treats Timothy as an American used to segregation would. That is something that old Timothy is not willing to accept.

This is a wonderful story about survival and acceptance with the rock solid character of Timothy at the center of it all. The setting of the tiny island is very well done, as is the use of dialect. This is a book that has a very high ethical purpose, and it succeeds because the author tells a believable, mesmerizing story-- he does not preach a sermon. Theodore Taylor has written other books, and I'd certainly like to sample more.

[Source: Paperback Swap.]


  1. I heard a discussion of this book on NPR, but I can't stretch my brain back to remember any of it! Thanks for the review of it.

    Also wanted to thank you for getting me into PaperbackSwap. I'm a huge fan!


  2. I am unfamilar with this author, but this sounds like an interesting read.

  3. A very different WWII novel. I'll have to keep this one in mind. I haven't read anything by Taylor.

  4. I have this feeling that I read this book way back, but I don't know if this is actually true. The cover and the blindness and the island sound very familiar...

  5. Michele-- I'm so glad you're enjoying Paperback Swap!

    DC-- I hadn't heard of him either, but the title of this book intrigued the island lover in me enough to check it out. I'm glad I did.

    Beth-- Taylor was new to me as well.

    Aarti-- You may very well have, since the original publishing date for the book is 1969.

  6. I remember reading this in 5th grade and getting bored to death of it. Then, I read it again a few years later--in high school and loved it. What an inspirational story it was and beautifully written. Thanks for the great review. I'm curious, have you read Island of the Blue Dolphins?

    --Sharmin @ A Battalion of Words

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sharmin! Yes, I did read and review Island of the Blue Dolphins. I enjoyed it when I first read it years ago, and saw even more in the story (and enjoyed it even more) a few years ago. :-)


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