|Robert A. Geake,
The New England Mariner Tradition:
Old Salts, Superstitions, Shanties & Shipwrecks
(History Press, 2013)
The book has an appealing title -- The New England Mariner Tradition: Old Salts, Superstitions, Shanties & Shipwrecks -- and the cover shows both a ship in rough seas and a whaling boat at its work. For someone like me -- a buff for facts and lore from the sea -- it's a solid hook based on the cover alone.
Fortunately, author Robert A. Geake makes good with his prose, which is a conversational look at the nautical lifestyle from the days of sail. Based, of course, in the rough and ready seaports of New England, the book is a montage of facts and rumors, histories and memoirs. There are pirates and privateers, sea monsters and slave ships, and of course the folks left waiting on shore and the inevitable tombstones that mark the final resting spots -- if indeed a body was recovered -- of many a sailor.
Geake has a pleasant manner of writing -- it's obvious he knows his trade, and you get the sense he enjoys the subject immensely. If anything, the book suffers from a lack of focus; the author rambles on through his topic in a manner that suggests he wasn't entirely sure how to narrow his field, so he just tossed everything into the stew and stirred.
At fewer than 150 pages, the book certainly doesn't suffer from excess verbiage. It's compact and amiable reading -- and one suspects it'd be even better to sit a spell with Geake and hear these tales in person.
book review by
4 January 2014
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