Friday, May 28, 2010

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm purportedly tells the story of a boat from Gloucester, Massachusetts that was lost at sea during a "perfect storm". However, it is both much more and much less than that. In the introduction, Sebastian Junger mentions that he was unsure how best to handle the story, and chose a "pure factual" route rather than a fictionalization. Instead of trying to make up details about what happened on the ill-fated ship, he instead sought out what happened to survivors in similar situations. Alas, this leaves the book with a jarring divide.

The first half of the book is primarily a background on the lives of the crew members of sword fishing in New England and the lives of the crew members of the ill-fated trip. It provides a detailed picture of the lives of the New England fisherman and even "follows" them out on an earlier trip on the boat.

Then the storm hits, and we really don't hear much more from the crew. We do get accounts of failing boats, refueling rescue choppers, coast guard crews, and rescue swimmers. This is almost a "short story" collection of exciting rescues during the same storm. After this the novel switches briefly back to the initial crew and the people lost at sea.

All of the sections work well on their own. The author comes close to tying everything together well, but doesn't quite make it. However, you can see how a little fictionalization would help turn it in to riveting moving.

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