Monday, December 7, 2015

Atlantic by Simon Winchester

How do you write a book about an ocean? Well, if you’re Simon Winchester, you begin at the beginning and tell stories. Winchester explains the various geological forces that created the Atlantic Ocean, and then goes on through history explaining how the Atlantic influenced people and events. The subtitle of the book is “Great sea battles, heroic discoveries, titanic storms, and a vast ocean of a million stories”, and that covers some of what you get in this entertaining book.

There are a couple of maps in the beginning of the book, but Winchester describes so many places I’d never heard of that I read with my iPad locked on to Google maps. I have to admit that I skimmed over most of the chapter dealing with sea battles, but there were dozens of other stories I thoroughly enjoyed. One of my favorite sections was Winchester’s description of the Faroe Islands, an archipelago northwest of Scotland that is still part of the kingdom of Denmark. Winchester describes his own journey out to the Faroes through the heaving seas of the North Atlantic and I got side-tracked for several minutes looking at Internet photographs of these amazing islands.  

“Atlantic” covers plenty of history, from the first hominids who migrated from central Africa down to the coast of South Africa; to the Phoenicians who first ventured past Gibraltar; on through the decades of early explorers like the Vikings, Columbus, and Ponce de Leon; then the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade; the many attempts to lay the trans-Atlantic telephone cable; and the over-fishing of cod in the North Atlantic.

Simon Winchester really is a gifted storyteller and "Atlantic" is a fascinating read. Newport Library has a copy in regular print, a copy in Large Print and it’s also available to download from Library2Go

Blog by Kay 

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