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The Shadow Line Lt

1 rating: 2.0
A book by Joseph Conrad

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Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publisher: Blue Unicorn Editions
1 review about The Shadow Line Lt

Too dry & talky for a first-rate piece . . .

  • Dec 29, 2001
As you can see from the caption I've offered above, I was disappointed by this one. I'm fascinated by adventure and exotic locales and this, a fictionalized real-life portrayal of one of Conrad's youthful experiences while sailing about on the high seas, promised a very bracing adventure indeed. It's the author's recollection of the difficult events surrounding the first time he took command of a vessel of his own -- reluctantly as he tells us, being almost forced into it by events and people around him. It proves an ill-fated step, as well, since the vessel he is asked to reclaim is laid up in a Southeast Asian harbor minus its captain, who has mysteriously given up the ghost, and with a crew that is ill from some undisclosed fever. The narrator gets slowly into the tale and then bogs down with the slow moving current as the ship of ailing men gets underway only to become trapped in a becalmed sea, unable to make headway to its port of call in Singapore, even as its crewmen grow increasingly ill and the on-board medication gives out. The narrator, our youthful first-time captain, struggles to keep the ship moving and at the ready for the first break in the uncanny weather they are experiencing while the first mate hallucinates over the ghostly machinations of the recently departed prior captain who, he suspects, is operating from beyond the grave to bring his former ship and crewmen down. Our young, first-time captain berates himself roundly for his supposed blunders including failing to check the medicine supply fully before shipping out and, though it remains unsaid, for possibly acting too precipitously to get underway, before ascertaining that the worst of the fever had passed among the crew. The ship's steward, a bold and knowledgeable seahand suffers from a bad heart which causes him to avoid any kind of hard effort though he manages to rise to the occasion when the need is finally there. Basically, this true life tale had the makings of a rousing adventure but Conrad doesn't ever allow it to become that, either because of his fidelity to the facts or because of his own inimitably verbose and abstract writing style. But, whatever the cause, I was disappointed in the book and put it down at last, barely moved. Ah well!


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