Mark's Reviews > The Nautical Chart

The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
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Mar 01, 10


I find this book frustrating. The protagonist, Coy, figures so heavily in the book that flaws in his construction are jarring, and that he simply gets in fights for almost no reason is one such major failure. A friend said Coy was not so smart bur I defended him, early on as I was in the book at the time and wanting badly to like him, but he has let me down in the ensuing chapters.

There are other flawed characters; "chief engineer Gorostiola, alias 'the Tucuman Torpedoman'... between these wild men, Coy looked like a dwarf. They had arms like twenty inch hawsers, hands like propeller blades, and a marked inclination to break things - bottles bars faces - after the fifth whiskey." With a setup like that, you figure you're in for a wild ride, but depsite repeat appearances from Coy's memory, the Torpedero never materializes beyond a shadowy flat memory. I'm brought to mind of a single sentence in Cloud Atlas when a Scotttish seaman gets up from a bar to fight. I won't recreate it, but there was more pith in that one sentence than all the sea stories Coy tells us through this book, and that's a shame.

Another quirk I didn't like was the brief appearance of a cartographer, who shows up along the way as one of the information sources. I won't give this one away, the quirk, but it's strange, let me tell you and irrelevant, and jarring and silly. Wait 'till you get there.

Frankly I like the long suffering bad guy the best and hope he comes out ok in the end. He's been burned badly by women and so earned my admiration.

The book benefits from some very nice description: "atmospherics" someone called it. However, comparisons (on the jacket cover) to Patrick O'Brian are a long, long stretch in my opinion.

The plot was fun too, and to find ourselves restricted to a European setting (Spain, the Mediterranean) was refreshing. It also brought back lots of memories of small boat ocean sailing. I could picture myself back out there, and that memory alone was the best part of the book for me, and well worth the price of admission. Here's a quote, just one sentence...
"He was nostalgic for the way some men behaved facing horror; but that was impossible to explain at a restaurant table, or anywhere for that matter." So, our hero is a hero type, and he gets what heroes have coming to them, in a terrific ending which again I won't ruin for you.

Some said this book moved slowly, and at times it may have. Blasting through it in a couple of hammock sessions and a plane ride, I benefited from compressing it into a short burst of "real" time and that may have helped prevent any impatient reactions on my part.
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