With the same rigorous observation (natural and social), invigorating stylishness, and encyclopedic learning that he brought to his National Book Award-winning Bad Land, Jonathan Raban conducts readers along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau. The physical distance is 1,000 miles of difficult-and often treacherous-water, which Raban navigates solo in a 35-foot sailboat. But Passage to Juneau also traverses a gulf of centuries and cultures: the immeasurable divide between the Northwest's Indians and its first European explorers-- between its embattled fishermen and loggers and its pampered new class. Along the way, Raban offers captivating discourses on art, philosophy, and navigation and an unsparing narrative of personal loss.
Hashing through his family troubles was far less interesting to me (why wouldn't his wife leave him, given the amount of consideration he seems to afford to her and their kid?). I just loved learning what was important and relevant in his library. Maybe that's why we're all here, after all? No wonder I'm a librarian...
This book has great personal value to me, as I have made the same sea trip (in more comfort!). But it is a remarkable book for any reader in its original insights into the culture of the Northwest Indians. Also, for anyone with a practical interest in sailing, it is a delight.
I got annoyed at a tendency to look down on his fellow travelers (and just about everyone else he met on the trip) and saw the ending coming a mile away, but although those two flaws took much away from the book, it remained for me very good reading.
Far from being just another sailing and cruising book, it is an emotional read. My most favorite books from this great author.