Here for the first time is the full story of the seashore: its natural and social history, spectacles, and scandals. The turquoise surf and sugary sand of the beach make it a favorite retreat today, but this wasn't always so. The oceans of antiquity engendered contradictory feelings. Greek and Roman myths filled it with bellicose monsters and alluring sirens. Medieval Europeans feared immersion in water. But the rediscovery of its medicinal attractions in the 17th century soon glorified the beach as an avenue for social pursuits.
In this elegant and illuminating account, Lencek and Bosker chart the evolution of the seaside from the margins of civilization, when "exotic" meant remote and terrifying, to its present role as the center of recreation and escape. Sexuality, health, fashion, sport, beach architecture, and beachwear all have their place in the progression toward the beach resorts that represent Nirvana for the 20th-century pleasure seeker.
Ocean beaches are my favorite places on earth. And earth is my favorite place in the universe. So, perhaps it was inevitable that I reveled in hearing about the geographic diversity amongst the littoral regions of our world and about the variety of ways in which assorted peoples over time have related to the seashore.
I loved being transported to to such times and places as the seaside villas of the ancient Greeks, Victorian England's bathing-machine-strewn stands, and Miami Beach in the early days of the Art Deco building boom.
I very much enjoyed learning about the history of seaside accommodation, bathing attire, beach etiquette, entertainment, and the like. The audiobook version was enhanced by the expert narration in the mellifluous voice of Nadia May.
I was very disappointed to hear that some of the scientific information about the formation of beaches is inaccurate (One point off of story for this). However, that section is but a small portion of this book, as this table of contents shows.
No Man and the Sea
The Beach of Antiquity
Poised for the Plunge
Revolution on the Beach
Spirituality and Romance Come to the Beach
The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeois Beach
The Pleasure Beach
Swimmingly at the Beach
Sun on the Beach
Paradise Found (and Lost)
Paradises by the Sea
I have re-listened to portions of this book many times and continue to find it a joy.
I really enjoyed listening to this book and rated it five stars, but I see that the only two other people to rate it so far have only given it two stars. I think the difference may lay in expectations. This isn't light summer reading - it expects the reader to be well educated and well traveled - at least in the mind's eye - with a nodding acquaintance with the beaches of Europe, classical history - and an anglophile. I'm an American anglophile classicist living in continental Europe - so I ticked all the boxes and this book was just my cup of tea. If you know where Scheveningen is, what class of ancient Romans lived on the Bay of Naples, who had his summer residence in Brighton, which famous poet swam across the Dardanelles, have friends with a beach house in New England (or wish you did), and enjoy reading books where rivers "debauch" into the ocean instead of flowing into it - this book is for you. My pro-tip: skip the first chapter about the geology of beaches - the information is outdated and wrong, and the author clearly didn't enjoy writing that chapter. There is a night and day difference between the first chapter and the rest of the book.