Gosport, 1860. Felix Wild has lived on the streets and on his wits for all his young life. He’s been a mudlark at The Hard, eaten tallow when there was nothing else to be had, picked oakum in Forton Gaol, and acquired a skill for ‘tup-tup-tupping’ from the women of Haslar. He has no family, no idea of how old he might be, and has never heard of Christmas. But he has one remarkable talent: he can make a perfect drawing, from memory, of anything that he has seen.
Saved from a further spell in prison by the wealthy William Kettle, Felix joins the Kettle household in East London and is employed to make drawings of the building of a magnificent new iron-clad vessel, HMS Warrior.
His eagerness to learn new things knows no bounds: from working out how to use a knife and fork, and reading a dictionary from cover to cover, to being given the ‘tipsy key’ for the chronometers during his first voyage on board Warrior as she conducts sea-trials. While the men he meets are in awe of his drawing skills, the young women are absorbed in rather less cerebral matters, namely the fit of his fashionably tight ‘gas-pipe’ trousers and his distinctive looks - one eye is blue, the other green.
Felix Wild is a captivating novel that has all the affectionate humour and vivid sense of place that has made Peter Broadbent’s naval memoirs so popular.