Atlantic by Simon Winchester, narrated by the author
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Harper, both imprints of Harper Collins
Although millennia old, the Atlantic ocean is a relatively new concept, truly recognized only when people began venturing across it, and realizing that it ended, that it was not simply one huge body of water. Still, human recognition was neither the beginning nor the end of the Atlantic’s story, but at the same time we are more than a blip, irrevocably changing the ocean itself. Although ambitious, it is this entire span of history that Winchester covers in “Atlantic.”
Thoughts on the story:
My only experience with Winchester’s other work was “The Professor and the Madman,” which is a biography of the Oxford English Dictionary. Based on that book, I was expecting more in the way of narrative structure in “Atlantic.” Winchester isn’t really telling a cohesive story, however, he is relating the vast histories of an ancient body of water. And, in fact, the lack of narrative thrust ended up not to be a problem. Winchester’s structure seemed very professorial to me, perhaps a semester’s worth of lectures, linked by the general subject matter, but not necessarily continuous from day to day. Like the best professors, Winchester is full of amusing anecdotes and fascinating tidbits, so that the reader and listener absorb information almost without realizing. I never knew that an ocean could be so interesting, and I am quite anxious to explore some of the aspects Winchester discussed more fully.
Thoughts on the audio production:
Authors narrating their own work is usually a red flag, but Simon Winchester takes on the task with gusto. In fact, if I didn’t like his books so much, I would suggest that he try a new career path in narrating audio books. As with the writing, the narration style was very professorial, everyone’s favorite history professor, the one who was completely caught up in his subject, but at the same time didn’t take it to too very seriously. Just an absolute pleasure to listen to.
I’m sure this would be fabulous in print, and is probably aided by great maps and figures, but Simon Winchester’s narration is engrossing. What higher praise can I give a work like this than it inspired me to explore aspects of the topic more closely? Highly recommended.
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