A Novel of the Sea
By Alan Littell
Brillig Press; 128 pages
A foundering steamer in a winter North Atlantic gale slowly comes apart as its crew struggles to save it. And then when those efforts fail, they try to save themselves from the terror of the cold, gray waves. Another ship is on its way to render aid – but can it make it in time? Littell, a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator, takes us inside the minds of the ship’s crew as the vessel labors in the storm: the men notice subtle pings of failing frames and feel the peculiar crashing of the hull as it begins to give way at the seams, and the vessel begins to take on water.
The setting is a common one for sea stories, having been visited and revisited by numerous writers countless times, from Melville to Conrad, and from McFee to Mowatt, and, more recently, in the sea-disaster genre.
But Littell’s voice – his spare prose and precise ear for the language of the sea in the post-war era – renders fresh clarity to the age-old tale of a crew struggling in the grip of a storm. The result is a crisp narrative – replete with strikingly vivid images of the ailing ship and its faithful crew – in near-perfect form.