In case anyone who saw the movie wants to read the book, its important
to remember that while the story that inspired Sebastian Junger to write
The Perfect Storm was certainly gripping, the book wasnt just about
the Andrea Gail and the men who died aboard ship. Its about the
storm, and the sea, and how together they affected the lives of everyone
around the Grand Banks that October night. Its about swordfishing,
and weather systems, and tragic deaths, and heroic rescues. And it was
one of the best books Ive ever read.
What convinced me to read this was Jungers absolute standard that
he wasnt going to fictionalize any aspect of the story. A few pages
at the beginning explained how he struggled to write a factual account
of the Andrea Gail, and how he was going to present his information. Such
attention to facts was enough to reassure me that he wouldnt attempt
to describe the deaths of the men aboard the Andrea Gail with graphic
detail, because there is no way to know exactly what happened.
After that, he introduces the men: Billy Tyne, Bobby Shatford, Dale Murphy,
Bugsy Moran, Alfred Pierre, and David Sullivan. He introduces swordfishing
itself, explaining techniques, equipment, routine, prices. He introduces
the Andrea Gail, giving us her specifications, limitations, capabilities,
reputation. And he introduces us to the Grand Banks, the Georges Banks,
the Gloucester community, and the weather systems that affect them.
And thats just the first chapter.
It takes off from there. The story itself is captivating, but Jungers
background as a journalist is evident in the way that he intersperses
facts and lore into the narrative. He has researched this exhaustively,
and yet hes able to relay his findings in laymans terms. Weather
systems are suddenly less mysterious after he explains them. (I actually
started to understand what the weathermen were talking about when they
said jet stream, cold front and storm system!)
The entire process of swordfishing is explained, in all of its danger
I have always enjoyed the ocean and the incredible vastness of it. For
all of mans technology, we havent been able to tame it, and
this book only confirmed that once again. I was amazed at the descriptions
of rogue waves, unpredictable walls of up to 100 feet of water, that can
crash into a boat in a storm. Junger managed to re-create the storm in
all of its fury and unpredictableness. In fact, thats where the
book gets its name: This storm could not have been any worse than it was.
In the meteoro-logical sense, it was perfect.
Its important to know that the people in the book have not been
sanitized. In some cases, they use language that could be termed vulgar,
but its part of who they are. Junger has attempted to give us an
accurate representation of these folks, not changing what they did or
said as much as possible. He also explain the details of a drowning death,
which is one of many dangers of working aboard ship, that is described
in much the same tone that a doctor might use in describing the dangers
of undergoing a major operation: the truth, spoken with kindness and concern,
but not sugar coated, lest we think its easier than it is.