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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Author photo is a bit spooky, like a zombie football player.
Initially I was not sure that I would enjoy this book, I had been expecting a novel rather than the more journalistic format that it is actually written in and I found a few of the early background details a little tedious, but once I really got into the book I really enjoyed it. Junger builds the background story piece by piece in much the same way as the storm is building in intensity and overall it felt almost atmospheric. Junger blends facts with speculation, despite admitting that he knows nothing about life on the sea, but on the whole the assumptions that he makes seem very probably correct, he has obviously done his research. Since the crew of the Andrea Gail have never been seen again obviously speculation is all there can be.
However, if I had one complaint it is the fact that Junger only tells the story of the yacht Santori from one standpoint although admittedly from that of an experienced sailor. The captain/owner of the Santori has to be ordered off the yacht because others felt that it was unsafe to stay aboard but in the end the boat stayed afloat and he later recovered it when it ran aground so it could be argued that he was proved right not the crew.
The book was not completely without faults but overall I rather enjoyed it findind it quite an emotional rollercoaster, varying from hope to despair.The book beautifully portrays the extremes fishermen sometime have to go to to catch the fish we eat, not to mention the hard partying they do when back ashore, but also the heroism of those who must try to rescue them and other seafarers, when things go tragically wrong.
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
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.