To the Ends of the Earth is a reprint edition, comprised of William Goldman's previous three novels: Rites
of Passage ( 1980), Close Quarters ( 1987), and Fire Down Below (1989). This mammoth volume
(784 pages) enables the reader to read these three novels without interruption.
This story is of the journey of a British warship, HMS Pandora, on its journey from England to Australia. The
account of the journey is told in a journal kept by a young aristocratic passenger, Edmund Talbot. Talbot's
influential godfather has secured him employment with the Governor General in Australia, and presented him with a
journal in which to record significant events of his journey.
Talbot's account comments on various passengers and crew members, giving a representation of early 19th century
English society. He expresses his opinion of class divisions, and has a running theme focusing on the proper
conduct of a gentleman. He recounts problems with the captain and some passengers. He describes his romantic
feelings for a young woman he meets on another ship. He writes of the fears about the sea worthiness of the
Pandora. The book presents a picture of a young man's journey of self-discovery in which he progresses from an
objectionable and ignorant snob to a man who understands the virtues of the common man around him.
There are beautiful descriptions of the sea with the maritine atmosphere conveyed perfectly with the tedium and
boredom of the journey, which was extremely uncomfortable and long. The description of the storm off Cape of Good
Hope is horrifying and graphic, giving a vivid and detailed description of the disintergrating vessel in the tropical
waters, and the despair of the passengers.
This is a complex and excellent portrayal of life at sea during the Napoleonic era.