Book Review – Atlantic

by Simon Winchester (Harper Press) ISBN: 9780007341375

The Atlantic Ocean is at the centre of the human world. It has played an important role in our lives from the first explorers to the recent discovery of the tiniest creature that produces one-fifth of world’s oxygen.

In his 20th book, Winchester sets out on an adventurous journey to describe the Atlantic Ocean from its birth to its eventual extinction. The result is a comprehensive biography full of fascinating facts and anecdotes of the Ocean and its relationship with humankind.

Winchester tells the Ocean’s story in seven chapters, like Shakespeare’s seven stages of life in As You like It. Sometimes it is a bit artificial. He illustrates the explorers and mapmakers. He describes wars and battles, trade and communication, greed and decay, and exploitation and pollution.

The last chapter is about the melting ice and the consequences of rising oceans.

My favourite chapter was the stage of the lover: the meaning of the ocean in words from an eighth-century Gaelic poet to the words of the first solo sailor Joshua Slocum, but also expressed in paintings, music and theatre.

It is not a difficult read, but there is a lot of information to digest, literally a million stories with a lot of details. If you have the time, read it!

Pauline Vijverberg

Posted on: 6th November 2011