It's hard to be completely fair to Two Years Before the Mast. Most of my "sea-faring" reading has been the likes of Patrick O'Brian and the Aubrey-Maturin series. That's obviously not a fair comparison since O'Brian's works of fiction and he was an author by trade while Dana was not.
There are parts of the book that are very interesting. The accounts of California in the 1830s are fascinating. At the end of the book he takes a return journey to California in 1859 and describes how many of the places had changed so dramatically in the short time-span. That too was fascinating.
Likewise, the descriptions of the peril and hardships of a seaman's life were sobering. The helplessness of a common sailor with respect to an overbearing and abusive captain is particularly striking.
Having said all that, at times the book drags a bit. As much as the peril and hardship I was impressed with the monotony of a sailor's life. In this case it wasn't just the sailing, but the mercantile act of gathering hides for years on end along the coast of California before returning home. As far as the sailing goes, for me it all started to run together. One rounding of Cape Horn sounded very much like the last, treacherous both times as it was.
Also, I would say a word about the narration. It was good, but not exceptional. I wouldn't seek out another book simply because of the narrator, but I probably wouldn't avoid the book because of the narrator either. I did notice more odd background "bumps" (like someone had hit the microphone) on this recording than I ever recall noticing before. It wasn't bad, but it was unusual in my experience.
All-in-all, I'm glad I listened to it. I don't think I would have made it all the way through in print. I don't know that I'll be queueing it up to re-listen to in near future but I imagine I will at some point.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.