The perfect storm : a true story of men against the sea

by Sebastian Junger

Paper Book, 1997

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Norton, c1997.

Description

The incredible true account of the most extraordinary storm of the 20th century, this is the story of a tempest born from so rare a combination of factors it was deemed "perfect" and of the doomed fishing boat with her crew of six that was helpless in the midst of a force beyond comprehension.

User reviews

LibraryThing member debnance
A best seller that truly deserved to be a best seller! Excellent story! (Much, much better than the movie)
LibraryThing member jolerie
Three storm systems collide to form what meteorologist fondly dub as the "perfect storm" or "the hundred year storm" off the North American Eastern Coast. This is the kind of storm system that Hollywood movies are made of (and it does become just that) as commercial fisherman and sailing enthusiasts are caught out in the midst of Mother Nature's maelstrom. In other words, all hell breaks loose and every man is struggling to hold on to whatever ledge, string, board they can leverage. The story is centred around the commercial sword fishing boat called The Andrea Gail and the six men on board who eventually find themselves caught in the Atlantic Ocean facing death in the form of 100 feet waves and 100 mile winds. This is a story of their struggle, their fight and eventually their demise at the hands of one of the worst storms ever witnessed by mankind.

The first couple of pages throws me for a loop and I was confused - not by the content of the book but how the book was written. I admit that I was under the misconception that although this was based on true events, that the book would be written in a fictional format. It read more like a newspaper article or an interview. So I concluded that this was more in the realm of a non-fiction book and was applauding myself for reading my first non-fiction book in 2011. But then the author would veer off into speculative commentary about what he thought was most likely the course of events in the final hours of the Andrea Gail and her crew. After adjusting to the tone of the author's non-fiction/fiction pendulum, I settled in for what turned out to be a fascinating read on how Mother Nature lost her marbles and went ballistic.

To be honest, I am probably jaded from my reading of Moby Dick where the constant and incessant referrals to the different types of sea-faring transportations and the kind of ropes to harpoons that were used agitated me to no end. So when the book started going off the deep end with its various descriptions of boats and so on, I inwardly groaned and prepared myself for a deluge of information that I didn't really care to know about since I was no fisherman nor did I have any plans of becoming one. But the second half of the book HOOKED me. The details and science behind how a storm forms and what causes a "perfect storm" sent chills down my spine.

The story of the Andrea Gail actually was not in my opinion the best part of the book since it really is just speculative because no one on this earth really knows what happened to the boat and her crew. All we have are educated and scientific guesses. But the story and rescue of Satori and her three person crew was riveting. I could not tear myself away from the story as it was like reading a play by play of the action that was taking place. The lives that were at stake and the risks that the rescue crew took was beyond human comprehension. For example, here is an excerpt from the book detailing the kind of training it takes to even become qualified enough to risk your life rescuing people on the high seas.
"During the first three months of training, candidates are weeded out through sheer, raw abuse. The dropout rate is often over ninety percent. In one drill, the team swims their normal 4,000 yard workout, and then the instructor tosses his whistle into the pool. Ten guys fight for it, and whoever manages to blow it at the surface gets to leave the pool. His workout is over for the day. The instructor throws the whistle in again, and the nine remaining guys fight for it. This goes on until there’s only one man left, and he’s kicked out of the PJ school. In a variation called “water harassment,” two swimmers share a snorkel while instructors basically try to drown them. If either man breaks the surface and takes a breath, he’s out of the school."
~The Perfect Storm, Pg. 176

In the end, The Perfect Storm was thoroughly an enjoyable and highly informative book. Suffice to say, I will not be going on any oceanic trips in the near future - even if George Clooney were the Captain at the helm.
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LibraryThing member JBreedlove
What amounts to a well written journalistic account of a unique weather event through the eyes of people who were caught out in the storm. Full of regional history and thecharacters that bought it to life.
LibraryThing member ngennaro
I never saw the movie but the book was a good read. Read this and then watch Discovery's Dangerous Jobs showing the crab fishermen and you will have a whole new respect for the type of work these men do out on the sea. One hopes that the new regulations will prevent people from taking chances and shortcuts just to survive. These men live a hard life and put it on the line every day that they go out.… (more)
LibraryThing member rsolimeno
I read this book way back in the summer of 1999, and just after finishing the book took a family vacation to Cape Cod, and later drove up to visit Gloucester, MA. Junger's description of the town was so well done it almost felt like I had actually been there before.

Admittedly, the really riveting story is the storm and the ship at sea. But even the details of the coast guard rescuers, their training, and raw bravery are so well told that this book can consume you. It did me, and it still is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read.… (more)
LibraryThing member jonesm
For title #4 I chose to watch the video version of the story for the second time. The first time I watched this movie I did not know the true story of what had happened on the Andrea Gail during that storm. I am a huge fan of George Clooney, so I enjoyed this movie because he was in the picture. Even through I knew the true ending, to the very end I thought George would survive.… (more)
LibraryThing member miketroll
Sebastian Junger's utterly compelling account of a hurricane at sea. "The Perfect Storm" is a meteorologist's term for the theoretically worst storm possible. In 1991 theory became reality off the New England coast.

Such is the power of the writing, the movie spin-off with the same title stirs the imagination weakly in comparison. This is a book to keep you awake at night.… (more)
LibraryThing member Library_Mole
When the narrative stays at sea, the story is captivating; when it hits land, though, it really bogs down.
LibraryThing member cvlibrarian
Historical fiction is always an interesting read and this story is exceptional. Junger has the reader relive the experiences of the men on the Andrea Gale as they fight against their demise in one of the most powerful storms in our history. It also delves into the history of fishing dating back to the 1800’s and gives the reader a sense of what the life of a fisherman is like today. An excerpt of this novel is included in our ninth grade textbook for English and is part of Coachella Valley High School’s core literature requirement.… (more)
LibraryThing member usnmm2
This is another case where the movie has almost nothing in common with the book. The book is very readable even when explaining changes in fishing laws, and how changes in boat design can change its bouyency to the training of the Air force
rescue jumpers.
LibraryThing member HvyMetalMG
I really did not enjoy this book too much. I thought it went way too in-depth about fishing and sea life. I understand they have to paint a picture of what these men faced at sea, but I erally did not care.
LibraryThing member winecat
This was an amazing book. The writing fairly leapt off the page.
LibraryThing member Jenners26
This book documents the fates of several people who had the misfortune to be at sea during the "perfect storm" -- a storm that became unexpectedly big and powerful due to the alignment of several weather systems. The primary story is the fate of the Andrea Gail, a fishing vessel that gets lost in the storm. Other stories of those who encountered the storm -- including a thrilling Coast Guard rescue -- are also chronicled. Junger does a good job of telling a true story in a novelistic way, and his description of what probably happened to the crew of the Andrea Gail is haunting. Like Alive described above, this book was made into a movie (this one starring George Clooney -- swoon)!… (more)
LibraryThing member Griff
A well told, true tale of the dangers of the sea, focusing on the tragedy of the Andrea Gail and her crew. A book for all, those nautically inclined or not. The story is engaging - you will keep turning the pages.
LibraryThing member countrylife
In my own world, this book was unread, the movie based on it was unseen. But not so in my mother's world - and then she must get to Gloucester. We arranged flights, met at the airport, rented a car and drove to Gloucester, Massachusetts. We spent a lot of time at the Fishermen's Memorial, which made vivid the epigraph in this book: It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives. - Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquary, Chapter 11. We drank cokes at the Crow's Nest, walked around the piers and the museum, and contemplated such a life as lived by Fishermen. It was a very moving experience; I determined to read the book.

The Perfect Storm covers the hundred-year storm of October 1991 and centers its story on the sword boat fleet that was caught in it. Sword boats are called long-liners because their main line is up to 40 miles long. The author's descriptions of life on a sword boat will cause you to suddenly appreciate whatever job you have. Mr. Junger has created a harrowing sense of place on the seas during a monster storm, and in his setting of Gloucester.

A real-life nightmare well-written. 3.8 stars
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LibraryThing member shtove
Great story telling - character, detail, tension.

Author photo is a bit spooky, like a zombie football player.
LibraryThing member colvin
I picked this up because I had read an autobiography of a woman who captained a commercial swordfish boat & it mentioned a movie made from this book. The author paces the account of a ship lost at sea with facts about weather, fishing, and other shipwrecks. I’m still trying to imaging 100-foot waves… “”She’s a beautiful lady,” one guy said, jerking his thumb oceanward out the bar door, “but she’ll kill ya without a second thought.”" (p. 293) A chilling adventure.… (more)
LibraryThing member linedog1848
In the last couple years I've read two other maritime disaster books: In the Heart of the Sea by Nethaniel Philbrick and In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton, and although this book was a fast read and engaging, I didn't find myself as involved with the characters as in the other books.

Perhaps it was simply aptly titled. It was, to me, indeed a book primarily about a storm, more than it was a book about the people in it. Though they figured prominently in the telling of the story, the other two were stories of survival and death. . .this book read like it was just a story of a sinking.… (more)
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
3035 The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, by Sebastian Junger (read 16 Nov 1997) This is a stunning and perfect book. It tells a true story of a storm in late October 1991 in which a swordfish fishing vessel, the Andrea Gail, and its crew six perished. The book is flawless and even I, who have no real at sea experience, was absorbed in the account of the storm and its fury. I was totally bowled over by this excellent, excellent book. The storm was in the vicinity of Sable Island--a place which I have long had an interest in. This book is a gripping gripping read. I presume it is the best book I'll read this year. {But it wasn't--on Dec 21 I read Back to the Front, and it won out, probably mistakenly, over this book to be the best book read in 1997.]… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
quite good. everybody drinks too much. sad.
LibraryThing member AdmiralLHH
Read the book & saw the movie about the time that my husband was to cross the Atlantic from France to Virgin Islands in a 37ft sailboat. He & 2 friends made the trip successfully but I was nervous the entire 35 days. Communication was minimal via short wave radio
LibraryThing member PIER50
I have never seen the film, which is probably a good thing. The book was excellent, a gripping ride from start to finish. The human side was both interesting and ultimately tragic. The details of the actual storm are frightening, 70 foot waves and 100 mile an hour winds!!
Recommended
LibraryThing member ViGl0721
I chose to read this book because it has action in it. it had some challenging parts and words, but other than that i highly recommend this to readers who like action packed books.
LibraryThing member kenno82
In my opinion, The Perfect Storm is a benchmark for outstanding non-fiction writing. The way Junger has pieced together this horror story from scientific evidence, local history, and third party accounts of the storm is amazing. I read this while on holiday, looking out from a holiday apartment watching charter boats leave a harbour. Every paragraph I read was one too close to finishing. I'll read this book many times again.… (more)
LibraryThing member ClicksClan
Of course I've seen the film, many years ago, and loved it for years. I was aware that it was based on a book (a friend who came to visit read it when she came across on the ferry many years ago, much to the amusement of the other passengers), and I've always wanted to read it, but I've never gotten around to it.
Then I bought a set of books called 'Stranger Than Fiction...' from The Book People, which are all stories about real people and events, but which are, funnily enough, stranger than fiction. They are all beautiful books. The covers are really pretty (which always makes a book nice to look at).

This book was more the sort of thing I had been expecting Longitude to be. It was all based on fact, there was a lot of factual information packed into the story, but there was speculation there which posed events as they might have been. It was very well done, especially considering that when it was written in 1997, it wasn't that long since the actual storm itself and by writing the book Junger was going to be opening wounds that were barely healed for the family and friends of the lost men.

I really enjoyed it. If I hadn't been quite so busy working on my OU, I probably would have finished it much quicker. Although it had a lot of information about weather and boating terms (which when compared to the similar aspects of Longitude which detailed sailing and how clocks were made/used which I found quite boring), but it was all explained in a really interesting way. It was written in a slightly more 'literary' style (totally borrowing from my course here) which meant that even though there were technical terms which might have bogged it down, they were almost poetic in places and described using quotes from people who had experienced the events themselves.

One thing which might ordinarily have annoyed me, but which really didn't, was the switches in tenses through the book. As it was dealing with events that had happened, specutlation on what might have happened, as well as memories, there as some shifting between present and past tense. I did become aware of it somewhere around the first couple of chapters of the book, and sort of noted that it wasn't bugging me, probably because it felt like a very natural way to move between the past and present.

Obviously, having seen the film, I knew how the book would end, but there were differences. I was surprised at how little focus there was on the crew of the Andrea Gail. The main focus of the film is obviously on the men and the events on the boat before and during the storm. In the book Junger spends a lot of time explaining that it's not possible to know what happened, but that other people who have been in similar situations and survived have experiences this. It's a very respectful way of handling what happened.

I found it really sad in places, which was kind of expected, given the subject matter. It was also kind of creepy; there's a lot of superstitions surrounding fishing (and sailing in general). The dreams that family members had following the loss of the boat were heartbreaking.

I really did enjoy this book and I'm so glad that I've read it. I'd definitely recommend it, though maybe not to someone who's got to travel by boat regularly. I don't think I could have done it when I was having to commute off the island everyday.
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