Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From the Library: "The Grey Seas Under" by Farley Mowat

You know the novels by obscure authors that your parents or grandparents had lying around when you were a kid? The books you read because grownups recommended them before you were old enough to doubt their opinions? In this reader's house, the author was Farley Mowat: first introduced as the author of the book about the guy who ate the live mice in the movie Never Cry Wolf, which was borrowed from the library, watched three nights in a row, the length of the rental agreement on one of the two VCRs available at the town's only store. Farley Mowat: author of yellowed paperbacks about Arctic survivors, one-man voyages across the Pacific in a sailboat, the long slow winter starvation of an Inuit tribe and the last minute day-saving killing of a whale.

Waiting for her parents' old computer to start up today, this reader noticed a never-read Mowat novel on the shelf: Grey Seas Under, the story of "Heroic Adventures of a Gallant Ship and the Brave Men Who Battle the Cruel Sea." Under this tagline, a Turneresque watercolor of a tugboat at full power, two stacks billowing black smoke, small figures standing on the bridge. The waves are high. In the background, an enormous ship burns. [Ed. note: a different edition of the book is pictured on this post.]

One always hopes that a book that looks like this will deliver on its promise. One always hopes that the beloved books of childhood will withstand the test of time. Two chapters in, Portland writer, the outlook is good. Stay tuned.


  1. Even I, a notorious Canadophile, hasn't actually read any Farley Mowat. Godspeed!

  2. Reader responds: you should read this one.

    "She rolled, all right. She lay over on her side with her gunwales almost under, then she shook herself and rolled all the way back again. She was not slow about it. There was none of the sickening hesitation which, in some ships, makes you wonder if they will ever right themselves again. _Franklin_ rolled jauntily. She did it as if she enjoyed it. Her crew did not."