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Joseph Conrad: The Rover

This was Conrad’s last novel and it reads like a novel of old age. It was intended to be a short story but expanded into a novel. It is the story of Jean Peyrol, an old and weary French sailor, who has retired to a farm near Toulon. The farm is owned by Arlette, a beautiful young woman whose parents were killed in the Reign of Terror. Both – he because he is old and tired, she because of the death of her parents – shun society. But Peyrol is called on to make one more effort to help his country before he can rest. Napoleon has come to power and Réal, a young navy lieutenant, comes to the farm to carry out a mission against the English fleet in the Mediterranean. Arlette falls in love with him but Peyrol is dragged into the lieutenant’s activities. Peyrol, with some help, from Arlette steps into the breach when Réal is injured.

This is Conrad’s final novel and not one of his best. It had some success with the public as it is a rollicking, though anti-English, tale. It still has some of Conrad’s favourite themes, not least that of responsibility and honour but it still reads a bit too much like Hornblower to me.

Publishing history

First published in 1923 by Fisher Unwin