First of all, this is a terrific book. It is, in one sense, a coming-of-age story, but it is so much more.
At the heart of the story is the eponymous Daniel whose life changes utterly when Captain Clarke B appears on the scene. The story is set in the late 1880s, beginning in a poor sea-side community in Essex but taking Daniel together with Clarke on a tour of Europe where he has … adventures.
The character of the Cap, as Daniel grows to call him, is unforgettable. Daniel’s relationship with his younger brother, who he is forced to leave behind, is deeply moving. So is Daniel’s relationship with a young Italian man, Andrea. Many other characters drift in and out of the story — in some cases with sudden violence.
This is story-telling at its best, and reminds me — and I say this with some hesitation — of Mark Twain at his best.