Two Books That Will Inspire Ocean Travel

Water. Whether it is a river, a lake or the ocean, water calls to me.

And this month, I am inspired to re-discover the ocean, mask-wearing and social distancing, on a beach vacation with two books written by people who obviously find the same joy I do for the water.

Book cover of Miranda Dickinson's Somewhere Beyond the Sea featuring a woman walking a brown dog on a boardwalk near sandy beach and ocean.

Be inspired to travel to Cornwall and hang out by the ocean with this book.

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

“It’s still dark as I carefully pick my way down the sandy steps to the beach,” starts Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson ($18.99, PGC Books, Pan MacMillan). “…The rush of waves against rocks is deafening, and it’s cold – the kind of cold that sneaks in between the layers of your clothing and seeps into your bones…I like the wildness, the rawness of it This is my special place and I adore it all year round.”

Each chapter in Somewhere Beyond the Sea switches between the perspective of two characters, Seren, who is struggling to keep her late father’s art shop afloat while combing the Cornish beach for sea glass to create beautiful jewelry, and Jack, whose wife has died and who is trying to keep himself and his daughter, Nessie, financially above water.

One day after school, Jack takes Nessie to the beach where they make a star out of sea glass, leaving before its last point in finished. The next day they return, only to find someone has completed the star. Each afternoon the pair create a new star from the materials left behind, leaving one point unfinished and each morning, Seren comes to the beach and finishes it.

Much like Jack, who thanks the mysterious star-maker for helping his daughter see magic in the world, Seren, too, enjoys the magic of the star and of the ocean.

“It’s strange, the smell of the sea. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Being so close to the ocean means it’s easy to forget during the week. I think you become accustomed to it, like the picturesque harbour and the quaint streets. But turn a certain corner in town and it suddenly, magnificently, reminds you that it is there. I love that whoosh of salt and breeze straight from the waves. It’s the best wake-up call…”

Front cover of Annie Proulx's The Shipping News featuring a giant blue, white iceberg and a silouette of a ship.

The Shipping News features the harshness and beauty of Newfoundland, including living on the ocean.

The Shipping News

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx features thirty-six-year-old Quoyle, who takes his two daughters to his ancestral home on the Newfoundland coast, where you meet a host of characters who grew up on the rock and whose understands and respects the ocean and the power it wields.

“This place, (Quoyle’s aunt) thought, this rock, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog. Sunkers under wrinkled water, boats threading tickles between ice-scabbed cliffs. Tundra and barrens, a land of stunted spruce men cut and drew away. How many had come here, leaning on the rail as she leaned now? Staring at the rock in the sea. Vikings, the Basques, the French, English, Spanish, Portuguese. Drawn by the cod, from the days when massed fish slowed ships on the drift for the passage to the Spice Isles, expecting cities of gold. The lookout dreamed of roasted auk or sweet berries in cups of plaited grass but saw crumpling waves, lights flickering along the ship rails. The only cities were of ice, bergs with cores of beryl, blue gems within white gems, that some said gave off an odour of almonds. She had caught the bitter scent as a child.”

Quoyle, who had grown up with an abusive father and a bully of a brother and ended up marrying a terrible woman who constantly cheated on him, is full of self-doubt when he arrives in Newfoundland and attempts to reclaim his life. Through the characters we meet, we learn more about life in Newfoundland including the power of the ocean.

“Have you been at sea in a storm, Mr. Quoyle?…It never leaves you. You never hear the wind after that without you remember that banshee moan, remember the watery mountains, crests torn into foam, the poor ship groaning.”

While life seems hard for the people in Newfoundland, you also read about kindly neighbours, history (“Truth be told,” said Billy, “There was many, many people here depended on shipwrecks to improve their lots. Save the lives they could and then strip the vessel bare. Seize the luxuries…There’s many houses here still has treasures that come off wracked ships. And the pirates always come up fro the Caribbean water to Newfoundland for their crows. A place of natural pirates and wrackers”).

And the beauty:

“There was the northern lights that night, so beautiful you couldn’t believe it, these coloured strings shooting out, it was a like a web. And the in the morning there was these – well, like silver threads was on everything, rigging, houses, telephone wires. Had to come from the northern lights.”

A copy of Somewhere Beyond the Sea was provided by PGC Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

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