Review: Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum
Reviewing a real classic adventure narrative!
Title: Sailing Alone Around the World
Author: Joshua Slocum; read by Alan Sklar
Publication Info: Tantor Media, 2006. 7hrs 45 min. Originally published 1899.
Source: Library digital resources
Joshua Slocum’s autobiographical account of his solo trip around the world is one of the most remarkable – and entertaining – travel narratives of all time. Setting off alone from Boston aboard the thirty-six-foot wooden sloop Spray in April 1895, Captain Slocum went on to join the ranks of the world’s great circumnavigators – Magellan, Drake, and Cook. But by circling the globe without crew or consorts, Slocum would outdo them all: his three-year solo voyage of more than 46,000 miles remains unmatched in maritime history for its courage, skill, and determination.
Sailing Alone around the World recounts Slocum’s wonderful adventures: hair-raising encounters with pirates off Gibraltar and savage Indians in Tierra del Fuego; raging tempests and treacherous coral reefs; flying fish for breakfast in the Pacific; and a hilarious visit with fellow explorer Henry Stanley in South Africa. A century later, Slocum’s incomparable book endures as one of the greatest narratives of adventure ever written.
Actually, the blurb says it all pretty well. This was an enjoyable, exciting, and often humorous narrative that wholly understated the amazing nature of what he did. Slocum in fact frequently comments that people thought it was something amazing but he found it easy and fun. I suspect that at times that was less than true. Bits of the struggle and danger creep in, though he always downplays them. I'm not sure I totally believe his claim that the auto-steering worked so well that he got a good night's sleep every night, either!
There are times when the attitudes of the period (1890s) show through in squirmy ways, with stereotypes and prejudices about the people he meets along the way. I dealt with those in the only way I know how in an historical work like this: I chalked them up to being a product of his times and focused on the adventure.
The narrator was fantastic. The delivery really made me feel like the first-person narrative was being read by the author himself, an obvious impossibility.
All sailors and lovers of adventure should read this. It's a classic for a reason.