Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Coasting; John Raban's book from the 1980's

Coasting: A Private VoyageCoasting: A Private Voyage by Jonathan Raban
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raban is not your average escapist writing about the bliss of being footloose in a boat. Where you might expect this simply to be a salty tale, it turns out being a wonderful insight into the state of Britain in the early 1980's, as glimpsed from the cockpit of his boat and his venturing into port as he makes his way around an island in a state of turbid change. He is an outsider in many ways but this is a very useful filter for his musings on the nature of a population surrounded by water, at a time when Thatcher was taking shots at the Argentinians over the Falkland Islands, and while the fishing and coal industries were taking seismic hits from which the labour force would never quite recover.

I really warmed to his prose and his insights, although he doesn't escape the inevitable difficulty of finding a suitable ending for a voyage which is pretty much circular.

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  1. Ah yes, the ending. I often feel an author spends their best coin on the opening chapters. Raban's "Passage to Juneau" just faded away. It's a 'there and back' journey and apparently the return trip had little to offer. Nice bits of local lore though, and worth the read. A captivating author.

  2. Agreed. Though the opening chapters in this one took a bit of settling into. He was establishing the context of his skewered vision of the British psyche, and I'm glad I stuck with it because his slant has some parallels with my own.