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Corsairville: The Lost Domain of the Flying Boat Paperback – 1 Feb 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140253483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140253481
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In March 1939, the flying boat (aka seaplane) Corsair crashed in the Belgian Congo. The accident spawned an absurd rescue operation: teams of engineers were sent out to one of the remotest corners of Africa, roads were hacked through the jungle, and a salvage operation was launched.

In Corsairville, Graham Coster sets out on a journey through Africa, Florida, Alaska and the Caribbean, seeking out this piece of vanished history and interviewing those who were involved in this operation. He also comes across many who still remember their journey on a flying boat as one of the most thrilling events of their lives. Just as much a history of the flying boat as a travel narrative, Coster cleverly juxtaposes people's memories with the sad tale of the brief flowering of a golden age.

The fondness in which flying boats are still held leads Coster to contend that they now represent an age when the act of travel was thrilling and wonderful, and had not been reduced to the sort of commodified trash which now seems to accompany all journeys. These memories 'were about countless individual destinies, times when history itself happened to people'.

While Coster recognises that some of the attitudes that accompanied flying boats patronised the former British colonies in an appalling manner, he nevertheless evokes a genuine sense of loss at the decline of these early wonders of aeronautical engineering, and has written a book which will appeal even to those who are not remotely interested in aviation. --Toby Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Dec. 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a pity that Amazon have simply categorised this book under 'travel and holiday', for though it is a book about a type of travel and takes the form of a travel writer's diary, it is a lot more besides. It is at one and the same time a history of the flying boat, an evocation of an era in the recent past, but seemingly remote, a series of sensitive and insightful portraits of unusual people and places and a personal journey in search of a dream. This is a book impossible to categorise: something between a history book and 'The Hunting of the Snark'. It is quite delightful.
I have nothing but admiration for the way the author weaves the threads which make 'Corsairville' a category-buster. He describes the technical details of how to take-off and land in a flying boat, but he gives you the emotion of it as well. He introduces you to the great men of flying boat history and the remarkable characters still involved with it, as in the marvellous chapter about the Alaskan Goose. He gets to places others do not reach, both points on the map and the recesses of subtle emotions. He can do so, I think, because he is a very skilled writer - whilst the book flows easily, it is on a different level from most pieces of travel journalism, for Coster jolts you out of stock responses with the deft choice of an unusual word or phrase: when the boats take off, they 'jounce', their pioneers harbour 'riparian' dreams.
It is history re-lived, and would make a marvellous TV broadcast, with dimensions even Michael Palin does not have. It is many journeys, but most of all a personal one of which this reader, at any rate, felt full of envy. Thanks to the author for letting me tag along in my imagination. Does he ever find the Snark? You'll have to read the book to find out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Jun. 2000
Format: Hardcover
'Nostalgia's not what it used to be', so they say, but if this gem of a book is anything to go by that wistful and mysterious emotion is still as powerful and poetic a force as ever. In 'Corsairville', Graham Coster takes us on a mesmerising trip back in time to a briefly flowering golden age filled with adventure and high spirits, the 'lost domain of the flying boat'. Pivoting round the buccaneering tale of the luxurious 1930s Imperial Airways flying boat 'Corsair',' the jumbo-jet of her day, and her crash landing and subsequent heroic rescue from a swampy backwater in the old Belgian Congo (now Zaire), the book is really a finely crafted combination of travel writing and secret history. Coster is documenting his quest, an obsession with these strange old 'floating flying machines' that drives him to seek out their memory across the globe, from Malawi to Miami. There is even an element of suspense - at times towards the end of the book I found myself turning page after page, as if this were a gripping 'whodunit', to see if Coster could really make it back to that speck on the map once known as Corsairville. All the while the tale is enlivened by Coster's engaging analysis of his obsession with the subject of the 'air mariners' and what it says about the complex and often irony laden self image of the British. Using the reminiscences of former passengers and pilots to bring vivid personal detail to the subject, he muses on the odd power of these now mythical beasts to touch people's lives for ever (even those, like himself, born years after the last of these true 'air-liners' were put to the torch), whilst leaving behind them only the faintest of physical traces.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon C McCrum on 21 Oct. 2000
Format: Hardcover
This gentle book charts the brief, but illustrious, era of the Empire flying boats which in many ways mirrored the British empire at its height and its subsequent decline after WWII.
Flying boats seemed to have had a very profound impact on those who either flew them or had the great fortune to fly in them. The author has managed to interview a number of people directly involved in the flying boats and their recollections provide fascinating reading.
The author journeys to the Caribbean, Africa and Alaska following leads on operating flying boats and in doing so describes the effect that flying boats have had on these areas.
The title of the book refers to an incredible story where a flying boat crashed on a very small river in Belgian Congo and was susequently repaired and successfully salavged. A village, Corsairville, built up around the wrecked aircraft during the two years it was being worked upon by a band of very intrepid British engineers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
It appealed to me for those past glorious pioneering days, we all look at through rose tinted specs.
There was one chapter I thought was more suited for the plane anaraks, but the rest told me about some great events & people I never have of heard of before.
I felt it was a bit unfinished as there was not an account of Cosairville today.
Such a shame there are no Short Flying boats in the UK.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tastydogs@aol.com on 14 April 2000
Format: Hardcover
An amiable glide through the history of the flying Boat loosely tied to the story of the Corsair. The story of that is easily told (flying boat crash lands in a remote river in the Congo & is salvaged-twice- by some derring do engineers who think nothing of building dams & involving a couple of hundred locals hauling the thing about)
The rest of the book is taken up by stories both past & present reflecting on the history of the flying boat & the few remaining boats & their captains still taking to the skies today.
A wacky topic but none the worse for it.
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