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Nantucket’s former glory

Review: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Nathaniel Philbrick.
Format: Audio (Unabridged). Props to Audible.
Rating (of 5): 3.5

I attended a lecture several weeks back at UMW as a part of their Great Lives series. Mr. Philbrick was presenting on Custer and Sitting Bull. While the lecture was mildly interesting I was much more intrigued by his background as a yachting and sailing writer and in his National Book Award for telling the story of the Essex — the ship which would live forever immortalized by Melville’s Moby Dick. I quickly added the selection to my audible queue and plowed through it once it came up in the pecking order…

Mr Philbrick is a craftsmen with words. Using precision and an editorial whit that leaves his work thorough without becoming exhausting, he traces the story of Nantucket and its whaling fleet along the chines of the Essex. Informative and introspective, the book rows to and from the Pacific whaling grounds of the nineteenth century, and tells the tale not only of the ill-fated expedition of the Essex and her crew, but also of the small New England island and its quiet, but radical changes from fishery to tourist attraction.

For fans of the illuminative non-fiction, and for those who long for days of calm breezes under stout or luffing sails, this is one for your shelf.

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