When impeccable language meets real life experience, the resultant prose is likely to be anything but not gripping. These were my feelings once I read ‘Driftwood – stories washed ashore’. The book is un-put-down-able! I highly recommend it.
As the author says in his foreword, how often have we come across books chronicling anecdotes and tales from the sea? Sure, we have our share of fairy tales, avengers and what not. But, stories of the sea life, depicting real life incidents, and real life situations and narrated with candid lucidity, are hard to come by. Well, look no further than this book.
Driftwood is a compilation of 12 short stories from a seaman’s life. The stories revolve around incidents on port, during the call to duty, the trials and tribulations seamen face, their fears, their hardships, etc. They give a layperson or landlubbers (as the author calls them) glimpses into a world that is largely ignored for the very simple reason that it is far removed from our day to day living. I mean, who cares what goes on in the high seas so long as it does not concern us, right? Out of sight is out of mind.
To give you an idea of how far out of mind their life is, consider this – I don’t think there are many who have not watched the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Johnny Depp is the most adorable pirate, isn’t he? That or the Netflix series ‘Black Sails’ shows pirates in an almost redeeming light. Well, once you read the book, you realize that pirates are anything but! Piracy is a real world concern and pirates are anything but what they are portrayed to be.
In his story ‘The Hijack’ on page 43, the author writes that -//even today merchant seamen are left to fend for themselves against armed pirates. They are not allowed to carry weapons on board, nor given any military training in self-defence. All this in the face of AK-47’s that the pirates wield. // Reading this gave me goose bumps. Imagine spending months on end away from your family for livelihood then being accosted by armed bandits of the seas. With such puny defensive measures in place, is it any surprise that many ships and crew are held hostage?
The entire book is sprinkled with such references and real life extracts.
My favourite stories from the book are the first and the last. The first, ‘The Piano Man’ aptly captures the gullibility of the seamen who far removed from the conniving masses, are such easy prey for shysters when on shore. The last one ‘Just a Seaman’ is a heart wrenching portrayal of how these trusting men are targets for duping and how when left with no recourse they end up taking matters into their own hands – often with disastrous results.
The print quality of the book is excellent as is the text (font) size. A readable font size is a must for my hyperopic eyes. This is one book you can pick up on your travels and finish in one sitting. Yes, it is that gripping! And yes, it does indeed make you empathize with the characters for that are how well they are sketched.
Buy the book here: