Synopsis for Swallows and Amazons: The Complete Set
The book relates the outdoor adventures and play of two families of children. These involve sailing, camping, fishing exploration and piracy. The Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) are staying at a farm near a lake in the Lake District of England which is mostly a combination of Windermere and Coniston, during the school holidays. They sail a borrowed dinghy named Swallow and meet the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy), who sail a dinghy named Amazon. The Walkers camp on an island in the lake while the Blacketts live in their house nearby. When the children meet, they agree to join forces against a common enemy – the Blacketts’ uncle James Turner whom they call “Captain Flint” (after the character in Treasure Island). Turner, normally an ally of his nieces, has withdrawn from their company in order to write his memoirs, and has become decidedly unfriendly. Furthermore when the Blacketts let off a firework on his houseboat roof, it is the Walkers who get the blame. He refuses even to listen when they try to pass on a warning to him about burglars in the area.
In order to determine who should be the overall leader in their campaign against Captain Flint, the Blacketts and the Walkers have a contest to see which can capture the others’ boat. As part of their strategy the Walkers make a dangerous crossing of the lake by night, and John is later cautioned by his mother for this reckless act. The Walkers nevertheless win the contest – thanks to Titty who seizes the Amazon when the Blacketts come to Wild Cat Island. During the same night Titty hears suspicious voices coming from a different island, and in the morning it transpires that Turner’s houseboat has been burgled. Turner again blames the Walkers, but is finally convinced that he is mistaken and feels he was wrong to distance himself from his nieces’ adventures all summer. Titty and Roger investigate the other island, where they discover Turner’s stolen property hidden by the thieves.
The following day there is a mock battle between Turner and the children, after which Turner is tried for his crimes and forced to walk the plank on his own houseboat. Afterwards the children present Turner with his recovered sea chest, which contains the memoirs on which he had been working.
James Turner appears in some ways to be modelled on Ransome himself. The story, set in August 1929, includes a good deal of everyday Lakeland life from the farmers to charcoal burners working in the woods; corned beef, which the children fancifully refer to as pemmican, and ginger beer and lemonade, which they call grog, appear as regular food stuff for the campers; island life also allows for occasional references to the story of Robinson Crusoe.