Top positive review
on February 8, 2014
Conrad writes the most perfect of observations about human nature in the now romantic setting of a sailing ship, subject to the hazards of penurious owners, dangerous seas, & all manner of hardships. As a young man & as an older commander he knows the fallibility & failings of men, & does not pull his punches. This is seasoned with the pride of the best in doing their work well & sometimes in risking their lives to save the ship & thereby others on board, whether they deserve such heroism or not. It is more than adventure stories though. The text reflects on what has been learned the hard way, over a lifetime, & what sets apart men who will risk everything against the most powerful elements of wild wind & water. There is also chance, which unaccountably singles some men out for misery or greatness. Conrad's prose is unequalled. It moves easily from a brilliant description of place or mood to complex specialised proceedures; to the wider context of philosophy; & elegaic hymns of praise to the joys of being young & alive & of having your potential tried to its fullest, with no small degree of risk riding on the outcome. Such descriptions seem effortless & are always fluid & easy to read. Even at his most complex Conrad takes his reader by the hand & shows him what it is like to be a member of that crew. The sentences seem leisurely, but they are compact & full of necessary detail. Conrad never waffles. Like a hard-working man, he gets on with what is necessary.