Virginia's Reviews > Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

Atlantic by Simon Winchester
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's review
Sep 22, 11

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bookshelves: library, audiobook, nonfiction, 2011books
Read from September 13 to 22, 2011

This is absolutely NOT a definitive work on the Atlantic, which I think should have been clarified in the title, because it makes it sound as though it is. This is sort of a scattershot overview of the general history of the Atlantic from a European perspective. It seems like it was written by assembling facts about the Atlantic onto post it notes or index cards, and then sorting these into vaguely connected groups. I think the subject was entirely too large to tackle in such a short book. Each one of the facts mentioned has had volumes written about it, and to sum each thing up into a sentence or two, or even a paragraph, didn’t really do justice to anything.

However, I listened to this as an audiobook, and that kind of format worked well for keeping me interested & awake while driving. Most of the facts & anecdotes, aside from the author’s own personal experiences, were things I already knew. The author’s personal story was used as one of the narrative threads that held this book together, along with a parallel loosely drawn to Shakespeare. I think if the author DIDN’T inject his own observations and experiences into this, it would have had nothing at all making it unique or having any semblance of cohesion.

I found it a little odd that while the topic was The Atlantic Ocean, most of the discussion revolved around humankind’s activities on the SHORES of the Atlantic, or men mucking about in boats. A relatively small number of pages were dedicated to the actual biological, technological, or geophysical goings on IN the Atlantic.

This was also heavily weighted with a European perspective of the Atlantic – South America, North America, and Africa, which all border the Atlantic just as much as (if not moreso than) Europe does, were only mentioned or brought up when they had something to do with European goings on in the Atlantic. It felt unbalanced, but made more sense considering the author’s background.

In reading this, I found myself really wishing that the author would have picked three or four topics and really looked in-depth into THOSE, instead of not really writing about much for more than a page or two.

I am also a little shocked that I agree with Karl Rove on his review of this book.

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