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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,551 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

14 of 14 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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4 of 4 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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14 of 16 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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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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By Mr. J. Handley on 13 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
I expected a continuous journey around the coast of the UK. first I was in Cornwall buying a boat in Fowey, so far so good, then How did I get to the Isle of Man? Never mind- I must be sailing in a northerly direction-No - I'm heading South around Devon ( Did I imagine Cornwall) and up the Channel. I know the format now is remembering his past and putting it into the story, but I would have liked a bit more of the journey included. But that is why he is a writer and I am not.
I am now enjoying Passage to Juneau more than Coasting.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Arty on 16 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
I first read this just after it was published in 1986. A re-read now underlines how much the world has changed in 24 or so years. Back then there was no GPS, so the coastal foghorns 'mooing' at the foreigner when they get too close to the UK, are no more. Neither can one's position on the sea be in doubt with modern GPS systems, and mobile phones mean that the isolation of the semi-reclusive 40 somethings living out their fantasies on their boats is no more. Further, it is sad to realise that our society now tracks our every movement, whether this is through financial transactions, CCTV, or paranoid surveillance of coastal shipping. I can't imagine that anyone can hide themselves away on a boat like this and live on a shoe-string. There would be too many rules and too many fees. The upbringing that Raban describes in the 1950's now seems like something out of a Victorian novel; however, in the 1987 paperback edition pp15 we also have this description of the English, which used to be a cliche, but which now could not be written or even thought:
"When it comes to sex, [the English (men)] are furtive and hypocritical - and their erotic tastes are known to be extremely peculiar. Many Englishmen will pay women money to take their trousers down and spank them. Others cultivate a neoclassical passion for small boys - preferably boys of a lower caste or another colour."
I can't imagine anyone writing this now, much less getting it published. I haven't checked the most recent edition; someone might want to see if this sentence (and a few similar) have been removed.
So I am rather shocked by this book now; it was old-fashioned in 1986 I think, because Anthony Burgess was writing similar lines but 2 decades before Raban. I'm shocked mostly by how much it has dated and by how our attitudes and mores have altered since then, mostly for the better I think (with the exception of GPS).
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