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Ultramarine: A Novel (Open Road) [Kindle Edition]

Malcolm Lowry
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Malcolm Lowry’s stunning debut novel about a young man’s introduction to life at sea among the hard-living crewmembers of a freighter bound for South Asia

In this moving, coming-of-age precursor to Under the Volcano, protagonist Dana Hilliot seeks absolution from his upper-class British upbringing. He escapes the bourgeois provincialism of his origins by setting out to sea as a messboy amid a crew of weathered, world-weary sailors. Lost somewhere between Singapore and Bombay, Hilliot has fled his oppressive life—and his first love—for a world that has no interest in his problems. Part Moby Dick, part A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Malcolm Lowry’s debut novel draws on his own early experience at sea. The novel displays the flair for character and dazzling prose that distinguish Lowry as one of English literature’s greatest modern talents.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1413 KB
  • Print Length: 187 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (6 Nov. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009S33I6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #468,957 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical and dark, but perhaps only for fans 14 Oct. 2005
Format:Paperback
'Ultramarine' is Lowry's first book, written when he was barely out of college. It tells the story of Dana Hilliot, an upper class schoolboy who gets a place working on a tramp steamer in order to facilitate his passage into manhood. His privileged background leads to the crew not accepting him, and his essentially childish nature means that he repeatedly fails to achieve his aim in matters of sex, drink, camaraderie and heroism. It is a 'rites of passage' novel with a very lonely feel.
The book is unusually constructed, with no real narrative structure. Each chapter begins with obscure, largely meaningless dialogue between crew members, full of sailor's vernacular. This is followed by an episode illustrating yet another failure on the part of Hilliot as a man. The episodic structure gives the book a disjointed feel, almost more like a short story collection than a novel.
'Ultramarine', like so much of Lowry's work, is autobiographical, albeit heavily embellished, written after Lowry's own attempts to find his own manhood as a sailor. Because of this, Lowry is able to convey the shame Hilliot feels very well, and the central character is easy to empathise with. However, Lowry himself was barely grown up when he wrote this, and sometimes the author seems like a child writing about a child, with childish ideas of what it means to be 'grown up'. Simple errors, such as supposedly rough and ready sailors speaking like public schoolboys, repeatedly creep in. That being said, although Lowry later dismissed the book, largely because he believed that he had plagiarised it (which he had in parts, probably because he was drunk when he wrote it, rather than through malicious intent), Lowry's distinctive, lyrical voice can definitely be heard. 'Ultramarine' is, ultimately, proto-Lowry. It is a good first book, but he went on to write much better ('Under the Volcano') and I think that 'Ultramarine' is probably best appreciated by readers already familiar with Lowry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Taste Of Things To Come... 25 Jun. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ultramarine is a collection of impressions, alcohol clouded memories, homesickness and youthful rebellion as Malcolm Lowry turned his back on his wealthy upbringing to run off to sea at 17. Not a great book but not too bad either; Lowry was testing the waters as he headed along his uphill climb to 'Volcano'

What Lowry needed more than anything in his life was the need to escape. Whether it was in some God forsaken, run-down Mexican town, a wooden shack in Canada, the beaches of Wirral, a rusty old tramp steamer or simply staring at the bottom of a whiskey glass all gave him the inspiration to produce his tortured, wonderful works.

Lowry gives us a flavour of the difficulty of being a privileged posh boy in the tough world of the deckhand on a clapped out cargo ship with the constant presence of alcohol, violence, disease and death tempered with some lovely passages of poetic homesickness for his girl back on Merseyside.

Lowry never stoops into an over-sentimental, or too horrific account of his voyage but produced a fine opening novel that laid out his stall as he set out on his strange, difficult life as one of the 20th Century's most original novelists.
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5.0 out of 5 stars under appreciated 1 Dec. 2011
By Reader
Format:Paperback
Ultramarine combines modernist transgression with warmth, passion and an authentic sense of youthful unease: I think it's a great book and oddly under appreciated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sea, Without Glamour 24 Jun. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ultramarine, the first published novel by Malcolm Lowry, tells the story of a young man's disillusioned coming of age at sea. Much of the raw material for the novel comes from notebooks Lowry kept during his own stint as a deckhand. Dana Hilliot, the young Lowryesque hero, faces the contempt of many of his fellow seamen, who view him as a spoiled upper-class poser incapable of doing a real man's work. He affects a grimly stoic front while engaging in elaborate fantasies of revenge.
Lowry's description of life at sea reveals the boredom and discomfort of a long voyage, relieved only by exhausting labor, sudden danger, and occasional nights of drinking and whoring ashore. His young hero's Conrad and Melville-inspired dreams of adventure at sea are replaced by the grimy reality of a deckhand's daily life. The realistic dialogue, the description of the sea and the port cities, and the hero's fevered inner monologue hint at the richness of language that was to inform Lowry's greatest novel, Under the Volcano.
The young hero's moral agonies as he struggles to remain faithful to his fiancee at home may seem comically overwrought to present-day readers, but Ultramarine's rewards certainly outweigh its few flaws. This work of Lowry's youth shows an unruly genius already testing its limits
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Detritus of Wisdom 25 Jun. 2005
By Daniel Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The French Translator for Lowry's masterpiece, Under The Volcano, said that, until Lowry, she had only encoutered two types of writers:1) The philosophical intellectual, who could go on about great ideas and philosophers but couldn't tell you what street he was walking down and, 2) The observant "Naturalist" writer who observed and recorded everything around him but whose fund of ideas and original thoughts was quite in the red.-Lowry proved to her that a writer could be both, as does this book.

Here we have the young Lowry's thinly veiled autobiographical hero, Dana Hilliot (a name Lowry contrived from Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast, James Hilton, whom Lowry knew at school, and T S Eliot) remaining (sometime tiresomely) faithful toward the dialogue of the sailors on ship as well as wending his unique "Lowromancings" as he playfully called his poetic, philosophical passages through the work.

At one point in one of these extended meditations/poetic reflections, Hilliot ponders that he is engulfed in the "detritus of wisdom" rather than having discovered any pearls, but then goes on to speculate as to what he would do were he discover one of these "pearls" ----Stop writing?

Let's be thankful that Lowry kept searching and swirling and went on to write one of the greatest novels of the century.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaotic and Original 6 April 2009
By J. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read Under the Volcano, and have a read a number of his other works. Under The Volcano is his best novel. Lowry fought alcoholism much of his adult life and it is reflected in his writings including Ultramarine. This is his first novel published in 1933. This novel is short, just 186 pages, and it is good, original, and entertaining for lovers of literature, but not as good as some of his other works. If you like Lowry, I recommend the collection of short stories Hear Us O Lord From Heaven They Dwelling Place.

The story comes from Lowry's own time at sea before university. The novel lacks symmetry and the coherent structure of a conventional novel - and that is the creative part. Unexpected things take place. The story involves a young man of 19, Dana Hilliot, working on a freighter ship in Asia. It is part narrative by Dana and part third person narrative, almost stream of consciousness: we are told the events in and around the sea voyage.

On board he is lost in time, and this sets the mood:

"But the sun hurt his eyes. Lowering his head, he tried to calculate how long it had been there. Today, or was it yesterday? Two days ago. All the days were the same. The engine hammered out the same stroke, same beat, as yesterday. The forecastle was no lighter, no darker, than yesterday. Today, or is it yesterday?"

Lowry fills the pages with anecdotes about sailors' lives and the characters that he meets. His shipmates are from Norway, England, Greece, Spain, and America. When they stop at a port, the others seek pleasures but he often stays on the ship, often drinks heavily and constantly thinks of his sweetheart, Janet, who is back in England.

He wants to be accepted as a regular crew member, not as a young man from well off family seeking adventure.

The story takes unexpected turns as Dana lives on board and then visits ports along the passage, often drunk, confused, or bored, but not as confused as the character in Lowry's later novella Lunar Caustic, set in a mental hospital.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable juvenalia. 18 Jun. 2012
By RHR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was expecting something wonderful having loved Under the Volcano, but I found this small volume unfinishable. The narrator bursts into Greek at intervals, presumably to remind himself of his wonderful elite education even as he scrubs latrines on a tramp steamer.
5.0 out of 5 stars Malcolm Lowry's Sea Voyage 20 Aug. 2014
By Deerpath - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Malcolm Lowry's "Ultramarine: a novel" (year 1933) is the first published novel by this British-Canadian author. It is a narrative in the modern style based on Malcolm Lowry's time as a deckhand on an ocean-going freighter boat travelling from England around the world. The protagonist, Dana Hilliot, is a mess-boy on the ship "Oedipus Tyrannus" whose destination is Bombay, now Mumbai, and Singapore. The main focus is on events in Chinese ports and Hong Kong. Dana tries to be true to his English girlfriend, Janet, while he is confronted with life in the bars and bordellos of China and Hong Kong. Malcolm Lowry's "Ultramarine" is a bildungsroman, a novel of Dana's education and initiation into manhood during his life as a sailor. Dana Hilliot mixes with his shipmates and tries to live up to their example. Malcolm Lowry's "Ultramarine" reads very smoothly and quickly with a fascinating style alternating between Dana's own literary language and the vivid, colloquial, sea language of his shipmates. Malcolm Lowry's "Ultramarine" is an excellent novel. I give it my highest recommendation.
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