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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Starboard Sea: A Novel » User review

A thought-provoking and memorable first novel

  • Feb 29, 2012
I picked up this book mostly because of my interest in Northeastern boarding schools and what could broadly and imprecisely be called the preppy lifestyle. But what kept me reading was author Amber Dermont's ability to tell a good story in a distinctive voice and with interesting and enigmatic characters.

The most interesting and enigmatic of those characters is our narrator, Jason Prosper. He struck me as a very mature and insightful observer of his situation, yet at the same time susceptible to very adolescent -- sometimes very unpleasant -- urges and desires. Jason frequently seemed to live behind an emotional veil, at once strongly affected by a whole string of tragedies around him, but still commenting with a kind of distance from what should be very powerful reactions. If this book were set today, instead of in the twilight years of the Reagan administration, I might suspect our narrator was on Prozac. If he's not quite the Holden Caulfield of a new generation, Jason is certainly a memorable character. His actions, observations, and motivations could generate a great deal of thought, discussion, and debate were anyone so inclined.

Other reviewers have commented on the author's engaging and lyrical language, and I have nothing to add to that. Although I've never been much of a sailor, I could feel Jason's (and Amber's) love of wind, wave, and canvas.

I gave "The Starboard Sea" four stars in part because I can't bring myself to give any debut novel five stars -- save I guess for "Catcher in the Rye" as alluded to above. I'll definitely keep an eye on Amber Dermont, however, because she clearly has the potential to be a five-star novelist. And if any of her future works update us on Jason Prosper, so much the better.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #362
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


"...engrossing...captivating and inspired. Jason is a fiercely likeable first-person narrator and romantic hero. The steady, restrained unmasking of Jason's history...is one of the novel's many achievements. But perhaps its greatest pleasure is the delight its characters take in the sea. Dermont's prose glides across the ocean...the language of sailing is lovely, both simple and elaborate, unexpectedly sexy and inexhaustibly metaphorical. Dermont writes about sailing with such precision and authority it's hard tp believe she's not a salty old sea captain. She's as assured a writer as Jason is a sailor, coasting through the story with agility and grace...Dermont adeptly charts the fine calibrations of teenage love and shame and belonging..." -- The New York Times
"With unflinching wit, Amber Dermont examines the harsh vicissitudes of life, and though the worlds she creates are often unsettling places, her sense of detail always makes for a pleasurable read. There is a vibrant lucidity to her language, a daring music…Her characters are simultaneously able to articulate their pain, pass judgment on their own behavior and pardon themselves for their transgressions.” —MARILYNNE ROBINSON, Pulitzer Prize and Orange Prize winning author of Gilead and Home

“The Starboard Sea is a touching, beautiful and deeply wise novel, a hymn to the bittersweet glories of youth. You will be enthralled.” —JUSTIN CRONIN, New York Times bestselling ...

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