- Series: Contemporary American Fiction
- Paperback: 373 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (May 5, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140101314
- ISBN-13: 978-0140101317
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,422,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The English Channel Paperback – May 1, 1987
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Top Customer Reviews
My wife was reading a book called "Pillars of the Earth" and convinced me to look at it. It's historical fiction about building cathedrals in the tenth century. A key fiction of the story is that a main character, who is killed off in the first chapter was on-board the Blanch, the White Ship, when it sank killing Prince Henry II in 1120. The result was that Henry I was without heir and a civil war ensued among his Norman relatives and English dukes. I remembered the historical discussion of the sinking, in "The English Channel" and wanted a bit of reality to supplement Pillars.
The frame of "The English Channel" is that we are taken aboard his ketch, Charmed, to sail both coasts from Ushant to Dover and back to Lands End. So it includes a sailor's description of lights, currents, and anchorages making it an excellent addition to a coast pilot.
The thing that delights however is interweaving the history of the places along the coast. That includes a discussion of prehistoric trade across the channel, the Roman period, medieval ports now land-locked, French reliance on nuclear power, and the problems of oil transportation. He also energizes such well-worn topics as the Spanish Armada, the battle of Dodger Bank, and the Normandy invasion.
I purchased this through Amazon; being an older book there was quite a bit of price variation but I was able to get a good quality hard-bound copy for a very reasonable price.
Nigel Calder is the son of the late Lord (Peter) Ritchie-Calder, a brother of the historian Angus Calder, the mathematician Allan Calder and his sister was the educationist Isla Calder ... and his father was the travel writer Simon Calder. With all that family talent, and the additional experience of Calder as an editor of the English magazine New Scientist, it is no great surprise that this book is a scholarly but highly readable account.
"On November 26-27 , 160 merchant ships & 18 warships lay at anchor in the Downs. Almost all... were ripped from their moorings. The fortunate ones were driven out to sea, but others were lost on the Goodwin Sands... [which included the British warships] Northumberland, Restoration, Stirling Castle & Mary.. 'These ships fired their guns all night & day long, poor souls, for help, but the storm being too fierce & raging, could have none to save them... Admiral Beaumont... & all the rest of his men... hundreds at a time crying for help... in a twinkling of an eye were drowned...' " (pp. 215-16).
History is related while the author sails his ketch north from Brest in France, east to Calais, northwest to Dover & then westwards along the English coast to the rocks & Isles of Scilly.
Nigel's personal generosity of spirit & wit rendered The English Channel as possibly the best discovery of 2008 - much the same event as when we discover the music of Rogers & Hammerstein. The bonus is the front cover's illustration, which is stunningly beautiful.
The only flaw is the absence of a front-of-the-book chronology of the events that occurred in the ports & seaside cities that Calder passed during the sailing. The details of the stories remain sharp - but after the first fifteen ports, with the time line zigzagging from 1488 to 1942 to 1719... the dates tend to blur together & then are lost.
Much Appreciated: Related to this theme is the Author's Note:
"Between A.D. 1582 & 1752, calendars differed on the two sides of the channel... England continued to use the Julian or Old Style calendar long after France...Read more ›