Fontenoy, Maud. Across the Savage Sea: The First Woman to Row Across the North Atlantic. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2006.
Reason read: my good friend Frank was born in January and he loved, loved, loved boats and the sea. Read in his memory. Also as a selection for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge: An extreme survival story.
Maud Fontenoy was twenty-five years old when she decided to embark on a nearly four month journey across the North Atlantic in 2003. She was officially at sea for 117 days. While she kept in constant contact with family, friends, sponsors, and news agencies, Fontenoy was alone with only what the ocean could offer her for company. She was entertained by dolphins, mesmerized by whales, stymied by fish, and terrorized for a short time by sharks. Occasionally, a tanker would cross her path, as she was squarely in their shipping lane for a good part of the journey. The real threat to her journey, however, was not the sharks, nor the tankers but the weather. Tropical storms would wreak havoc on Fontenoy and her little boat. Despite the fact meteorologists kept her abreast of developing weather patterns, there was little she could do to avoid the high seas and violent winds that came with them. Her strength and fortitude to just survive were astounding.
Confessional: I read this book before I started the Book Lust Challenge. I opted to read it again because I couldn’t remember many details. Plus, it’s a pretty short book so it was easy to add it back on the list. If I ever met Fontenoy in person I would like to ask if anyone ever found her message in a bottle.
Somebody helped me out. There is a moment when Fontenoy was convinced a much larger vessel was bearing down on her. She describes how her radar detector went off, beeping like crazy. However, she later shares that her detector was defective and said it “detected no vessels during the crossing.” So, what was the beeping? Does that mean the droning of the vessel’s engine and the smell of exhaust was all in her imagination? Was there a near miss with another vessel or not?
Quote to quote, “I wondered why the god of the sea had chosen to keep me in the palm of his hand” (p 95).
Author fact: Fontenoy has written two books about sailing. Both are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: there is a small section of photographs for which I am grateful. I had a hard time picturing Fontenoy’s craft, Pilot.
Nancy said: Pearl said Across the Savage Sea is “well worth your reading time.” I completely agree. So much so that I’m reading it again for the Challenge. I said that already.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row your Boat” (p 191).
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Illustrated by Joseph Ciardiello. New York: Reader’s Digest, 1989.
Reason read: August is the month to be by the sea.
Who doesn’t know the story of Captain Ahab and his obsessive hunt for the albino whale he calls Moby Dick?
What makes Moby Dick such an iconic story is Ishmael and his keen observations, not just of monomaniacal Captain Ahab, but of the entire crew of the Peaquod and the everlasting mythology surrounding whales. While his voice changes throughout the narrative, he remains the iconic character driving the story. There is a rage in Ahab that is mirrored in Ishmael. There is also a lack of faith in Ishmael that is mirrored in Ahab. While there is an adventure plot, Moby Dick also has a mix of religion (sermon of Jonah and the Whale); the study of the color white as it relates to mountains, architecture, and of course, inhabitants of the ocean, whales and sharks; a lecture of the different types of whales, including the narwhal. Additionally, Moby Dick offers didactic lectures on a variety of subjects: art, food, religion, slavery. [As an aside, although it is a realistic exchange between the cook, Fleece, and sailor Stubb, it made me uncomfortable.]
Quotes to quote, “It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin (p 38), “Yes, as anyone knows, meditation and water are wedding forever” (p 24), and “All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven may have mercy on us all…for we are somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (p 89).
Author fact: it is sad to think that Herman Melville did not find success as a writer until after death.
Book trivia: The illustrations by Joseph Ciardiello are pretty cool.
Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line to Moby Dick slipped her mind and that is why it wasn’t included in her first book, Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140). As an aside, the title is hyphenated as Moby-Dick in the index while my copies (print and audio) are not. As another aside, I have to argue with the inclusion of Moby Dick in this chapter. If another lesser book started off “Call me Harold” would it have been included? Probably not. What makes “Call me Ishmael” is not the opening line itself, but the epic story that follows. Those three words are only the gateway to an unforgettable and insane adventure.
June was all about giving up various elements of my life for the sake of family. I’ll go off the book review protocol to say one nice gesture threw off a myriad of plans. Because of one nice gesture I:
- sacrificed a camping trip,
- postponed my first trip of the season to Monhegan,
- cancelled plans with my mother,
- lost four training days,
- lost hours of sleep but gained a kink in my back due to sleeping on an air mattress,
- got behind on reading and writing end of year reports,
- spent more money than I budgeted due to a cancelled flight,
- missed a day of work, and
- have no idea if I actually helped or not.
Anyway. Enough of that. On with the books:
- Book of Reuben by Tabitha King
- Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Sun Storm by Asa Larsson
- Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan
- From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian
- Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
- “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
- “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above”
by Sherman Alexie
- “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
- “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
- “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
- “What You Pawn I will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
- “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
- “Harrowing Journey” by Joel P. Kramer
- “Ado” by Connie Willis
O’Brian, Patrick. Blue at the Mizzen. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of my dad’s birthday in May.
The Surprise had been a man-of-war vessel. It’s newest assignment as a research vessel was a hydrographical assessment. Captain Jack Aubrey has been charged with conducting a survey of Magellan’s Strait, the Horn, and the Chile coast. Additionally, Aubrey agreed to help Chile assert its independence from Spain. Aubrey just can’t stay away from a good political conflict and his decision has its consequences.
Blue at the Mizzen focuses a little more on the personal lives of Jack Aubrey and especially Doctor Stephen Maturin, which was a pleasant surprise. Jack’s brief romance with a married woman, his cousin Isobel was short lived, but Maturin’s was a little more substantial. As a widower, he travels to Africa where his birding adventure with fellow bird enthusiast Christine sparks a romance. While his proposal goes unaccepted in the heat of the moment, he continues to write to her from sea and his letters become a diary of sorts (extremely helpful with the narrative).
Of course O’Brian adds plenty of swashbuckling drama as well as international intrigue to his plot besides romance. At the end, Aubrey is set up to go aboard the HMS Implacable, hoist his flag “blue at the mizzen” and take control of the squadron. This will set the plot for the next Aubrey/Maturin saga.
Quote I laughed at, “…a damned awkward veering wind and as black as the Devil’s arse” (p 8).
Most truthful line, “The sea, if it teaches nothing else, does at least compel a submission to the inevitable which resembles patience” (p 154).
Author fact: I’m hearing rumors that O’Brian wasn’t a particularly nice guy, especially to his first wife.
Book trivia: Blue at the Mizzen was O’Brian’s last completed novel.
Nancy said: Pearl said the series was best read in order.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Sea Stories” (p 217).
O’Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. Read by John Lee. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, Inc., 1991.
Reason read: for my dad. He was born in the month of May and he loved stories about sea adventures.
For starters, Master and Commander is an excellent lesson in naval warships. The dense nautical terminology will make your eyes go dry if you let it. There are many areas where the plot and dialogue altogether cease making it an arid read. Amidst the didactic seagoing vessel lesson 19th century Britain is at war with France’s brash Napoleon. Young Jack Aubrey has been promoted to commander of the sloop Sophie. Along as his right hand man is Doctor Stephen Maturin. He acts as ship medic and surgeon and together they fight enemies on the high seas. Aubrey and Maturin are as different as they come but they balance each other out and truly need one another. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the whole series.
For every adventurer Master and Commander is a must read. Every battle is played out in stunning detail. Life on a man-of-war could not be any more vivid.
Author fact: Patrick O’Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ.
Book trivia: Master and Commander is first in the series and definitely should be read before any of the others in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl called Master and Commander an “archetypal oceangoing adventure…[one] that [is] well loved by both men and women, and by those readers who have spent time on boats as well as those who have never set foot in a seagoing vessal on even stepped into a rowboat, kayak , or canoe.” She also mentioned O’Brian’s “reliable historical detail and evocative writing” (Book Lust p 217).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217).
This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:
- Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
- Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
- Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.
- Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
- From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.
- Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
- Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.
Short stories for National Short Story Month:
- “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
- “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
- “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
- “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
- “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
- “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
- Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
- The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.
- The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.
- We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.
I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.
Adams, Sharon Sites and Karen J Coates. Pacific Lady: the First Woman to Sail Solo across the World’s Largest Ocean. University of Nebraska Press, 2008. Outdoor Lives. EBSCOhost.
Reason read: July is one of the best months to be on the water. Also, it is the month Ida B. Wells was born (7/16/1862). Ida embodied the spirit of empowerment for women.
In 1965 Sharon Adams became the first woman to sail from California to Hawaii in a 25′ Folkboat called the Sea Sharp. [Moment of honesty: I was unfamiliar with the term folkboat and had to look it up.] Adams had just learned to sail the year before at age thirty-four. Recently widowed she needed something to do; somewhere to channel her grief. Dentistry just didn’t cut it. What better place than the ocean? And then. Then, after that, she decided she needed to do more. Why not be the first woman to sail the entire Pacific ocean? Delivering a boat from Japan to San Diego, California in just under four months, Adams not only learned more about the natural environment around her but about herself as well.
Here’s the thing you need to know about Sharon Adams. She was just an ordinary woman looking for a hobby. she did something extraordinary not because she wanted fame but because she could. what I don’t think she realized is that she can write just as well as she sailed. Even though she had help from Karen Coates, every other sentence was begging to be a quote in my review.
Some of my favorite lines (and there were many). Here are two about loneliness: “Experience does not deaden the sting of loneliness at sea” (p 1) and “Some sailors simply couldn’t endure their own minds” (p 3).
Author fact: Adams was 78 when she published her memoir about her sailing adventures. I love her writing so much I wish she had written more.
Book trivia: the foreword was written by Randall Reeves and the preface was written by Karen Coates.
Nancy said: nothing special about Pacific Lady. It’s just in a list of books about the ocean. too bad Nancy didn’t have a chapter called “Women Doing Amazing Things!”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called “See the Sea” (p 202).
The one good thing about July is that I am starting to train for a half mara in October. I am praying this gets me out of my funk…
Here are the books:
- The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins ~ in honor of Higgins’s birth month
- Anna and Her Daughters by DE Stevenson ~ in honor of July being Ice Cream Month (this is further explained in the book review).
- Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple ~ in honor of Hawthorne’s birth month
- Pacific Lady by Sharon Adams ~ in honor of July being Ocean Month
- Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (didn’t finish in June) ~ to continue the series started in April in honor of James’s birth month.
- A Moment of War by Laurie Lee ~ to continue the series started in honor of April’s Madrid festival.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and the Year That Change Literature by Bill Goldstein
December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
- Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
- Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
- Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
- On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
- Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
- Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
- River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)
- Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.
- Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.
- Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
- Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson
Masefield, John. “Sea-Fever.” Salt Water Poems and Ballads. Illustrated by Chas. Pears. New York: The MacMillan Campany, 1916. p 55.
As a girl who grew up
by the sea no, surrounded by the sea as only small island living can be, I loved everything about John Masefield’s Salt Water Poems and Ballads. The version I picked up was published in 1916 and had the inscription, “Evelyn, from Cerisi (?) Estelle – Christmas 1916.” Awesome. The illustrations are beautiful (my favorite is on page 73). The particular poem I was to read, “Sea Fever” evoked so many different memories for me. What comes across the strongest is there is a real need to be on the water; a need that cannot be denied. Just give me a ship the narrator cries. It’s all he needs. From that he hears the gull’s cry and tastes the salt wind.
Favorite line, “I must go down to the seas again.” Let me repeat it. I MUST go down to the seas again. Amen.
Reason read: Last time I checked April was National Poetry Month…still.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse’ (p 237).
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
Carson, Rachel L. The Sea Around Us. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.
Carson is so lyrical in her writing. Beauty on the page. When reading The Sea Around Us I could practically smell the salt air, feel the sea rise and fall under my feet. Her words lulled me like the ocean always does. In addition, Carson writes in such a straight forward manner you are never caught up in textbook language. You are never bored. Entertained as you learn. She is not above calling something she doesn’t understand just plain “weird.” The one drawback? Some of the material is out of date. When Carson describes the diving helmets of the 1950s I wondered what she would think of today’s technology. Another mystery of her time was how whales and fur seals could endure the pressure changes in the depths of the ocean. Science has since uncovered that mystery and then some.
Reason read: August is one of the best months to be on the ocean.
Author Fact: Carson was an environmentalist who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is another author who suffered breast cancer. Linda Lear runs a classy website dedicated to Carson (and others).
Book Trivia: The Sea Around Us won a National Book Award and was a best seller. It was also made into a documentary and won an Oscar in 1953.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: the 500s” (p 71).