April 6: Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean (submitted by Beauty & Her Books)
Since there aren’t many books I’d gladly throw in the ocean (even if I strongly dislike it, someone else may like it! That just seems like such a waste!) I decided to take the ocean theme in it’s own direction. These are my top books set at/near/on the ocean.
Just an early disclaimer: I have read a lot of the sea set novels that we now think of as for children (though are some aren’t) like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island. My opinion varies depending on the book but for one reason or another a lot of them don’t resonate with me. So this won’t be a list of novels with “the most” ocean presence. But they’re books about the ocean that I enjoyed.
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier– The sea plays a role in a lot of DuMaurier’s Cornwall set work (it certainly plays a key role in the plots of Jamaica Inn and Rebecca) but it’s most prevalent in this tale of a married woman’s dalliance with a pirate.
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter-Naslund– I suppose this list is a good place to confess that I’ve never actually read Moby Dick, so that won’t be on this list. But the ocean takes a strong role in Una’s epic as well. I actually did really like this book, but it didn’t make me want to read Moby Dick more. I was actually more interested in what Una was up to while Ahab was off at sea.
Circe by Madeline Miller– Parts of this novel (based on a character who shows up in The Odyssey) take place at sea. Other parts take place under it, and still others take place on an island, but the sea is present throughout, so I’m counting it as “nautical.”
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware– Not only a whodunnit, but also a “did it even happen?” set at sea. A travel journalist sees someone thrown overboard on a cruise. But no one else saw anything and no one is missing.
Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon– If I hadn’t specified “novels” in the topic, I might have been tempted in include Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. But since I did, I’ll go with this novelistic interpretation of it. It’s told from two perspectives: that of the princess who marries the prince that the mermaid loves, and the mermaid herself.
The Pirate Captain by Kerry Lynne- Like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Outlander. That’s really the best way to describe this book. It’s a lot of fun, as long as you’re not looking for it to be anything deeper (no pun intended) than that. I want to read the second in the series but it’s long (over 750 pages) so I’m hesitant to dive in (again, I’m really not doing this on purpose!)
The Pearl by John Steinbeck– Years ago, I read this short novel about a poor pearl diver with a sick son. But it’s haunted me for a long time. When he finds a huge pearl the family’s fortunes change, and his family dreams of a better life. But the pearl may be more of a curse than a blessing. It’s a retelling of a Mexican folktale, in which diving, pearls, and the sea, play an important role.
Foe by JM Coetzee– This is the third book on this list that reimagines a sea set classic. In this case, Coetzee imagines that a woman named Susan Barton tells Daniel Foe (Defoe’s name before he fancified it) about her experiences on an island with a shipwrecked Cruso (Robinson Crusoe) and his manservant Friday. But Foe changes up the story a bit to make it more marketable. Barton turns Cruso into her own invention in the story, and then Foe turns that into his invention. It’s really about the enigmatic nature of storytelling, but the ocean (and an island) are strong settings throughout.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys- Wow, yet another classic reimagining with a strong nautical element. Jane Eyre isn’t nautical at all, but this tale of the madwoman in the attic, begins on the shores of the Caribbean.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– I was obsessed with this book as a kid. It’s based on a true story about a girl who spent 18 years alone on the Island of San Nicholas, off the coast of California.