This is the story of Garrett McNamara, a surfer from Hawaii who holds a Guinness record for surfing the worlds largest wave. This wave, incidentally,This is the story of Garrett McNamara, a surfer from Hawaii who holds a Guinness record for surfing the worlds largest wave. This wave, incidentally, is off Nazare, Portugal and the events surrounding that wave are a very exciting section at the end of the book.
Autobiography or Biography? Not sure; the main author is clearly McNammara, and his voice is so strong and individualistic that the book very much feels like a straightforward person telling you about themselves, there are no literary flourishes. There is a co-author given, though not one I had heard of.
For about the first hundred pages, this is the story of how McNamara and his brother grew up. This was very much the 60's - 70's hippy, commune era and their growing up was very unusual by today's standards. This part is interesting though after a while I started getting impatient to get back to the ocean. I think that a whole book could be written about this era and that it was trimmed down to anecdotes that the author felt helped shape the core of who is is. This part also suffered a little from continuity problems (more on that latter) and I personally cringed at the childish animal cruelty stores that the author.authors seem to find amusing and endearing.
When we reached Hawaii it became fascinating!
Personally, I am not a surfer. I did one lesson on my 30th birthday, I nearly killed myself with my own board and the two students next to me were lucky to escape un-maimed. I don't even know anyone who surfs. What I am is an ocean addict, anything marine fascinates me and it is very hard to find books which capture the joy, fascination, awe and sheer blood pounding amazement of the oceans and seas. This visceral response to the ocean seems to be very much a feature for surfers though, so I enjoyed this book on that level.
Hawaii of the 70's? 80's? was fascinating to read about, the surf culture was unique in so many ways and I loved reading about the surrounds in which McNamara became a pro-surfer. The culture and the place were clearly a big part in shaping him and I really enjoyed the blunt, uncompromising way in which he describes himself and his journey to becoming who he is today. He did some pretty dumb and pretty unconscious things but I certainly respect the way he owns them without excuses and then evolves his own mindfulness and goes his own way . The point in his life in which he looks around at who and where he is, decides consciously what he wants it to be and then gives anything to following that goal is inspirational. He does that at the stage when most people just accept that there life is what it is and give up their dreams. I loved that he did change it around and became a pro surfer of large waves much older than more pro surfers seem to make it.
Now of the ocean; the deep understanding of how waves work, how all the factors including the wind and the shore line shapes them and the sea beneath them affects the wave show an ongoing obsession with the ocean and it's moods, the very thing I like to read about but which is rarely written. Also, the deep respect for the oceans that produce waves and which are untamed and often unpredictable comes through in the writing quite beautifully. The lyrical descriptions of the waves and barrels are everything that made me start keeping an eye out for books by/about surfers.
The negatives of this book are in the writing style which is often, very often, totally disorganised: It chops and changes a lot time wise, so that much of the time we can lose track of on ongoing narrative. We often don't know what year we are reading about and that actually bothered me more in the childhood section (where it is likely the author himself isn't certain) than in the later part of the book. As well as what year, there seems a strong tendency to mix the timeline up, so as a continuous narrative it often fails. There is one section where as a surfer McNamara goes to Tahiti, then he describes a surfing experience that happened years before (I think) then we skipped to present day, then to a different location....
It seems that we follow the authors personal experiences of the waves, sites and individuals in a way that is a linear experience for him, which on the whole does not impair the strengths of the book but may leave some readers adrift. I was able to largely gloss over timeline or location confusion and concentrate on the actual surfing experiences, which are beautifully described, the wipe-outs which are terrifying exciting and as the cover says: Wild.
PS. I seem to have got the budget version, while the online description mentioned colour photos, mine had only a few, well chosen black and whites. ...more
Beauty is a clever and skillful retelling of a fairy story or two. Or two? Well, it does not really stick to a single fairy story but rather borrows lBeauty is a clever and skillful retelling of a fairy story or two. Or two? Well, it does not really stick to a single fairy story but rather borrows liberally from many.
When I acquired it I imagined it would be a fairly straightforward retelling of Beauty and the Beast, after a while it became clear it was a retelling of the sleeping beauty. Next I realised that the author was trickily fooling the reader by twirling all the fairy tales that fit onto a single metaphorical spindle and then weaving the results into an entirely new and unexpected story.
In a way, it is less of a fairy tale than I expected or hoped for, I love re-telling of old tales and by amalgamating so many different elements most of the underlying imagery and morals of classic fairy tales is lost. However I did very much enjoy the resultant story and would like to read more of the series.
The book is enhanced by the lovely illustrations which give it more of the fairy tale element.
Word of caution; the target audience of this book may be confusing, because in a way, with the mythic element and the illustrations it may come across as young adult. It seems to me more suited to real adults since the themes of sex and violence, while not explicit, are too strongly woven into the story and too nuanced to be suited to really young teenagers whose parents may restrict their reading access....more