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Coasting (Picador Books) Paperback – 5 May 1995


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (5 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330299778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330299770
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jonathan Raban is the author of over a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, including Passage to Juneau, Bad Land, Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Coasting, Old Glory, Arabia, Soft City, Waxwings and Surveillance. His awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s Heinemann Award, the Thomas Cook Award, the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, and the Governor’s Award of the State of Washington. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Harpers, The New York Review of Books, Outside, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, The London Review of Books, and other magazines. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Kinsman on 31 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Coasting' has to be considered one of the best books by a living British author. It is a travelogue describing Raban's single-handed voyage around Britain in an old restored sailing boat, that takes various digressions - just as his journey does - as he mulls over his childhood as the son of a Church of England priest and the current state of Britain under Mrs Thatcher at the time of the Falklands War.

The book is remarkable for its penetrating and highly perceptive insights into the character and state of the British nation. Raban is able to form a detached view of his country whilst out at sea, and quite rightly he finds there is more to criticize than praise. However, rather than taking the battering ram approach of his eccentric predecessors (whom he ironically describes in his story), he uses beautifully crafted language to describe the life of a single-handed sailor in awe of the power of the sea, with detailed almost lyrical descriptions of the characters and encounters he meets along the way. There are two passages that I am particulary fond of. One is of a rather hostile meeting with Paul Theroux at Brighton marina, himself in the midst of researching a similar book about Britain on foot, and a much friendlier one with Philip Larkin at Hull, a city that Raban knows well from his student days and working as a part-time minicab driver.

This is a writer at the very heights of his craft. Having become disillusioned with so much low-grade modern writing, it is a delight to come across an author who is on a par with some of the great writers of the past. Whereas 'A Passage to Juneau' and 'Hunting Mr Heartbreak' are similar in theme but more localized in their American context, I consider 'Coasting' his best novel because it so successfully reflects and intertwines Raban's perspective on his own life with that of the British nation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on 2 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Raban's Coasting is a book that defies labels. It's not a novel. It might be a travel book. It might also be an autobiography, or even a politicised journal. What it is not is dull.

Back in the 1980s, Jonathan Raban decided to chill out on a boat. He found the Gosfield Maid, a hearty, old-fashioned wooden thing that could chug along at a few knots and decided to circumnavigate the circumnavigable Britain. He failed. He opted out of the northern challenge and took the easy route through the Caledonian Canal. None of this is at all relevant to the book, by the way, because it's not a travelogue. And who cares if, on a quest to record the intricacies of an island's coast, you miss out a bit?

But Jonathan Raban does travel Britain's coast. And here and there he describes experience, recalls memories and reacts to current events, but in no particular order. He is particularly enamoured with the Isle of Man. Its insularity seems to mirror, perhaps concentrate, the insularity of the English. The Isle of Man's microcosm occupies much of the early part of the book, so much in fact that the reader wonders how the author will manage to cover the rest. Rest assured, however, for he has no intention of doing that.

The book might also not be an autobiography, but we learn a lot of the author's parents and family life in the Raban household. They started as fairly conventional Church of England vicar and vicar's wife cassocked and aproned in rural serenity. We meet them later, slightly hippied, father bearded and radicalised, both CNDed and residing alongside Pakistani grocers and amidst less salubrious activities along the Solent.

The author's school years also figure. He was unlucky enough to attend a less than prestigious public school.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By tim_colbourne@hotmail.com on 31 May 2001
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Raban takes to the water to write a rich account of English culture and personal history. His voyage in a patched-up boat, stocked with books, is the embodiment of a million (probably largely male) escapist fantasies. Coasting is packed with beautifully crafted phrases, fertile ideas and acutely observed passages which make you laugh out loud. This was my first encounter with Jonathan Raban's writing, since when I have made a thorough nuisance of myself recommending him to everyone I meet. Non-fiction doesn't get much better than this.
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This was a new author to me, although has has a considerable number of published works. I feel his style bears comparison with Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux. So, he's in good company then.
The subject matter of 'Coasting' is mostly the people he meets while sailing and motor-sailing around the UK (except Scotland, as he takes the Crinan canal), and his thoughts on his childhood as a 'son of the manse' in the 1950s. He isn't shy about airing his views on the Falklands invasion or the miner's strike, both of which coincided with his voyage.
One minor criticism is that some episodes in his coastal voyage are dealt with out of chronological sequence, which is a little strange (artistic licence, perhaps).
And don't imagine that the reader will learn anything significant about the 'sailing' part of sailing around our coasts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JAW on 7 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
In a nutshell: the English as viewed by a haughty snob. Or Virginia Woolf patronising a working-class pub: 'Just too, too, ghastly darling...'
Philip Larkin's fleeting appearance comes as all too brief relief.
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