This is a classic account of life at sea in the 1830s, written by a Harvard dropout determined to set sail and experience the "real world". Author Richard Henry Dana said his goal with the book was to "to present the life of a common sailor at sea as he really is - the light and the dark together." Performer Jim Killavey's deep voice and Yankee accent is a great match for these vivid stories, which don't shy away from the many cruelties and hardships experienced by sailors. While this is an older recording that lacks the precise sound quality of newer works, sailors and those who wish they were will appreciate its salt-drenched charm.
© and (P)1988 Jimcin Recordings
"Possesses...the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
This book listens well if yo know something about the rigging of a sailing ship. If you are new to this world you will probably get lost in the incredible detail and and miss the truly hard, yet amazing, life of a sailor.
Being a native Californian, I've read several histories of the area and many of them cite passages from Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast". I hesitated to buy the audiobook since I found the English rather archaic, the original book having been published in 1840. But I took the plunge and was pleasantly surprised.
Dana's later, distinguished career as a maritime lawyer came through in his scholarly prose and I came to enjoy his writing style. Why did the Harvard educated son of a prominent Boston family ship out as a common sailor? His book answers this question and hints of his later advocacy for the oppressed and as a foremost abolitionist.
Dana's "Before the Mast" is a vivid account of life aboard a merchant ship from a deckhand's perspective. His descriptions of sail and rigging handling get a bit technical but he does it so well that even I, a landlubber, generally understood the varied and often dangerous tasks of a seaman. And I could see Mexican California as Dana described it.
The narrator, Jim Killavey, did a superb job of conveying Dana's brilliant grasp of events and sensitivity to the human condition. This book is truly a classic.
I am a leisure sailor and I found this book truly amazing. It gives an incredible insight in a sailor's life in the mid 19th Century. It also gives an intriguing perspective on an important but obscure part of America's history: the start of the colonisation of California by US American inhabitants. I am not a native English speaker so I cannot assess the quality of the accent used by the narrator, but I was very happy with the style of the audiobook.
This book gives incredible insight into what it was like to be a common sailor back in the days of the "tall ships." A must listen for anyone into history - or sailing. Read very well in what sounds like an authentic "Yankee" voice.
But for the horrible narration, this book might have been a five out of five. The narrator has a strong New England accent, and his reading of the text is painfully choppy, with a long pause after every sentence. He also mispronounces all of the sailing terms, which is annoying to any veteran of sea terminology. This book should be read in print to preserve the real and plentiful virtue of the narrative against such inept narration.
I gave this book a three star rating because of the abismal reading, probably on a par with a seventh grade student. The reader had obviously not done any research into correct pronunciation and gave the impression of being thoroughly bored by his job. This spoils an excellent historical document which is well written and more than worth the read, but not the listen.
I had read this years ago as a child and now wonder how I ever got through it. I think what truly kills this book is the awful narration. Think of all of the boring teachers, professors, or instructors you have suffered through and then think of this narrator, who I think was going for a "matter of fact" tone, but instead merely achieved excruciatingly boring.
If you are looking for action and adventure, this is not the book. The book is much more about mundane daily life. The reader's deadpan style is irritating.
Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.
If you sail or have sailed or been a sailor, you probably will love this book. It is an adventure story set in the early 19th century, focusing on a sailing voyage and the difficulties the men on board faced. Many of the difficulties were caused by the demands of the few officers in charge.
The book is full of nautical jargon, to the extent that a non-sailing person will at times be lost trying to keep up. And the story loses a lot of interest as a result of all the jargon...I wish the author had focused more on the human interest aspect of the voyage, because when he did, he wrote an interesting narrative. But then he was back to talking jargon again...and I finished only half the book.
"A great book ruined by dreadful narration"
I read the printed book some years ago and loved it. However I could not get past the first 15 minutes due to the expressionless deadpan voice of the reader. Lets hope a better version can be found in the future.
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