Almayer's Folly (Paperback)
One of the greatest English writers of the 19th century was a Polish-born man who couldn't even speak English fluently until he had entered adulthood. Nevertheless, Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) went on to have a well-regarded literary career that bridged Romanticism and Modernism while also covering the zenith and twilight of the British empire.
Conrad used his experience within the British empire to write novels and stories that often used the sea and navy as a setting, juxtaposing the individual human spirit with the collective duty and honor of the British navy. And though it was a second-language, Conrad mastered English prose.
Set in the late 19th century, Almayer's Folly centers on the life of Dutch trader Kaspar Almayer in the Borneo jungle with his half-daughter Nina. It was Conrad's first novel, and he was clearly getting his feet wet, not to mention accustomed to the English language. Critics agree his later works were more polished.