Friday, 24 February 2012

Book 10 of 2012: The Perfect Storm

For some reason, Blogger's scheduled posts option isn't working for me at the moment. I've been merrily scheduling posts all week (even though I've known that I'm going to be around to update on the evenings, it's nice to be organised) and then coming along each evening and having to upload them myself anyway.
Googling hasn't solved the problem, it seems like the last time people had similar problems it was summer last year. I've tried updating the Blogger interface, so we'll see whether or not that helps at all.
Anyway, onto my next book of the year; The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. Of course I've seen the film, many years ago, and loved it for years. I was aware that it was based on a book (a friend who came to visit read it when she came across on the ferry many years ago, much to the amusement of the other passengers), and I've always wanted to read it, but I've never gotten around to it.
Then I bought a set of books called 'Stranger Than Fiction...' from The Book People, which are all stories about real people and events, but which are, funnily enough, stranger than fiction. They are all beautiful books. The covers are really pretty (which always makes a book nice to look at).
Seen here on top of my OU course books
This book was more the sort of thing I had been expecting Longitude to be. It was all based on fact, there was a lot of factual information packed into the story, but there was speculation there which posed events as they might have been. It was very well done, especially considering that when it was written in 1997, it wasn't that long since the actual storm itself and by writing the book Junger was going to be opening wounds that were barely healed for the family and friends of the lost men.

I really enjoyed it. If I hadn't been quite so busy working on my OU, I probably would have finished it much quicker. Although it had a lot of information about weather and boating terms (which when compared to the similar aspects of Longitude which detailed sailing and how clocks were made/used which I found quite boring), but it was all explained in a really interesting way. It was written in a slightly more 'literary' style (totally borrowing from my course here) which meant that even though there were technical terms which might have bogged it down, they were almost poetic in places and described using quotes from people who had experienced the events themselves.

One thing which might ordinarily have annoyed me, but which really didn't, was the switches in tenses through the book. As it was dealing with events that had happened, specutlation on what might have happened, as well as memories, there as some shifting between present and past tense. I did become aware of it somewhere around the first couple of chapters of the book, and sort of noted that it wasn't bugging me, probably because it felt like a very natural way to move between the past and present.

Obviously, having seen the film, I knew how the book would end, but there were differences. I was surprised at how little focus there was on the crew of the Andrea Gail. The main focus of the film is obviously on the men and the events on the boat before and during the storm. In the book Junger spends a lot of time explaining that it's not possible to know what happened, but that other people who have been in similar situations and survived have experiences this. It's a very respectful way of handling what happened.

I found it really sad in places, which was kind of expected, given the subject matter. It was also kind of creepy; there's a lot of superstitions surrounding fishing (and sailing in general). The dreams that family members had following the loss of the boat were heartbreaking.

I really did enjoy this book and I'm so glad that I've read it. I'd definitely recommend it, though maybe not to someone who's got to travel by boat regularly. I don't think I could have done it when I was having to commute off the island everyday.
"The body could be likened to a crew that resorts to increasingly desperate measures to keep their vessel afloat. Eventually the last wire has shorted out, the last bit of decking has settled under the water. Tyne, Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy, and Shatford are dead."
Page 146

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