A Private Voyage
By Jonathan Raban
(Vintage Books USA, Paperback, 9780375725937, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 4, 2003
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Put Jonathan Raban on a boat and the results will be fascinating, and never more so than when he’s sailing around the serpentine, 2,000-mile coast of his native England. In this acutely perceived and beautifully written book, the bestselling author of Bad Land turns that voyage–which coincided with the Falklands war of 1982-into an occasion for meditations on his country, his childhood, and the elusive notion of home.
Whether he’s chatting with bored tax exiles on the Isle of Man, wrestling down a mainsail during a titanic gale, or crashing a Scottish house party where the kilted guests turn out to be Americans, Raban is alert to the slightest nuance of meaning. One can read Coasting for his precise naturalistic descriptions or his mordant comments on the new England, where the principal industry seems to be the marketing of Englishness. But one always reads it with pleasure.
His books include 'Soft City' (1973), 'Arabia Through the Looking Glass' (1979), 'Old Glory' (1981, Heinemann Award, RSL Thomas Cook Award), 'Foreign Land' (1985), 'Coasting' (1986), 'For Love and Money' (1987), and 'Hunting Mister Heartbreak' (1990, Thomas Cook Award).
He has sailed alone round Britain and has spent much time afloat on the coastal seas of Europe. He is now living in Seattle, where he sails a Swedish ketch on the rim of the North Pacific.