Andrew's Reviews > Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
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Jul 10, 07

bookshelves: dunredalready
Recommended for: mates, office types
Read in January, 2007

This book made me cry multiple times, but not for the direct subject matter. I think there were just a few too many references to the California coast described in enough detail that the effect was to pry out long-lingering ghosts haunting the coastline of my own isle of denial. his descriptions are never quite up to the par of his literary contemporaries, but the detail leaves any California-lover desperately lamenting the irretrievable passage of those first rough-and-tumble times that "modern man" first began journeying to that area of the world.

Dana's description of first arriving in San Francisco made me shiver, and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The complete and utter irretrievability of that outpost wilderness fills me with something more than sadness and something less than rage.

The book itself is a fascinating look at pre-gold rush California, and Dana treats the California coastline and journey there and back from Boston as a sort of seafaring pioneer narrative. it is cast in plain terms and he calls things as he sees them. the concept of an intelligent, thoughtful voice penning such a journey, as opposed to what I would assume might typically be the voice of an ignorant, uneducated sailor, gives the story a fresh slant. as the journey progresses on, there are moments where Dana's amusement with the whole situation wears quite thin and the reality of the possibility in becoming a career sailor inches just too close to reality for his comfort. it is in these moments that his true humanity shines through.

This is an excellent read for any twentysomething who is still not convinced of what their life and career should look like.
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