I don't usually read historical fiction but a colleague highly recommended this book so I decided to give it a try. I liked Walter's sense of humor and voice. The story starts when he is elderly and writing out his story, and then you quickly get to the thick of it. I connected with him because I understood the feelings of being mismatched from family, and that is a universal theme. Not only did I used to feel that, and want to fit in with other families, I thought that I had legitimately been switched at birth and my best friend was my sister. I know, I know. Teenage brains, right? His family struggled, and he had to move around and watch his parents fight and that it also something that I dealt with when I was younger. Of course it was different circumstances, but some themes are universal. A lot of the cultural subtleties were lost on me, so while I am sure it was well researched, I can't really comment on that aspect like some reviewers do and readers want to know about. It was really interesting how he came to be a part of the navy, and how fate steered things in his life, and that is another universal theme I enjoyed that each little thing and decision effects so much then and on down the line. The writing is lyrical at times, and I loved the vivid descriptions like of the sea and of the skies when he first got on the ship. One of the aspects that I didn't enjoy is when I got pulled out of the story when the elderly Walter inserts commentary instead of just writing like he was a teen again. But I understand the aesthetic value that can bring and the crossover appeal as well. The love story was great and even though I knew the ending because of the beginning the journey for Walter and Maria to get where they were was enthralling. I loved it when they didn't even know each other's languages but used hand gestures to communicate, and the time they spent together, the bond that drew them together. Walter led me on quite the adventure, fighting pirates, being aboard the ship and proving his worth to Maria. There is also a darker side, him putting secrets out there and working out guilt over some of the actions. It was so easy to pull for Walter and be so into what he was up to and his life and those of the ones surrounding him.