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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.



  
From a random review:

  

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Robson, Nancy Taylor: Course of the Waterman

  

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River City Publishing © 2004, 199 pages [amazon]
5 stars

Lest you lose interest in this review before I get to the point, I'll make it now: get a copy of this book and read it. It won't take you long. You can finish the book in one evening and then, I'll bet you anything, it will stand out in your memory as one of the most impressive reading experiences you've ever had, sticking with you as only the rarest of good books or stories can do.

Robson, indeed, has fleshed out her characters and explored their interlocking relationships--all of which are changed during the course of this story--more fully than most authors can in twice as many pages.With that out of the way, on to the book itself. The Course of the Waterman, Nancy Taylor Robson's debut novel, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Bailey Kraft, whose family has been fishing the Elizabeth River on Maryland's Eastern Shore for generations. Like the Kraft men before him, Bailey has river water in his veins, and a peculiar talent for finding fish: the Krafts are river royalty. But every year the haul is less impressive, and supporting a family by fishing is becoming increasingly difficult. Early in the book Bailey's father Orrin announces that he wants his son to go to college, to have options that he didn't have. This change in plan is wholly unwelcome: Bailey had expected to fish full-time after finishing high school; he would have quit school to do so had he been allowed. But responding to his father's bombshell is only the first of a great many challenges Bailey must meet in the course of the story--hard work in difficult, sometimes life threatening circumstances not least among them.

Bailey is surrounded by a handful of characters who are as vividly imagined as he is: his parents and younger sister and the Warrens, Tud and his son Booty, the latter more brother to Bailey than friend. Robson, indeed, has fleshed out her characters and explored their interlocking relationships--all of which are changed during the course of this story--more fully than most authors can in twice as many pages. Robson's book explores the obligations of friendship and the bonds, stronger than rivalries and animosities, that hold together a community of people who need one another to survive--"the pull and haul of relationship, gift, and obligation."

Like her characters, Robson grew up on the Chesapeake, and she worked for years as a deckhand on a coastal tug. (She tells her story in Woman in the Wheelhouse.) She couldn't have written this book the way she did without that experience. Readers like myself who aren't familiar with the life she describes--most of us, surely--will encounter some unfamiliar vocabulary here, but context is sufficient to get the meaning across. The first paragraph immerses the reader at once in the life of a Chesapeake waterman:

"The trotline groaned over the roller as it came up out of the blue-black Elizabeth River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Braced against the boat's wooden coaming, seventeen-year-old Bailey Kraft was poised, dip net ready, scanning for the bait twisted every eight feet or so into the mile-long line. That was where the crab would be--if there were a crab. As he watched, a shadow rose from the dark water and came into focus, sharpening into olive shell and blue-green claws that clung to a frayed gray eel chunk tied to the line. When the crab broke the surface, Bailey leaned out, scooped it up, and dumped it into the bushel basket at his feet."

I can pick nits--precisely two. Robson tells her story in the third-person, primarily from the perspective of Bailey himself. On a few occasions the perspective changes to that of another character, and when it does, because it is so infrequent, I found it jarring. Second, the issue of race relations is introduced very briefly at the very end of the book. I found this jarring as well simply because, while it fits the storyline at the end, it has no bearing at all on what comes before and thus seems out of place.

These are minor complaints. The Course of the Waterman is a must read, for adults and young adults alike. It succeeds in being both a thoughtful, moving character study and a gripping adventure story.

Review summary: Nancy Taylor Robson's debut novel tells the story of seventeen-year-old Bailey Kraft, whose family has been fishing on Maryland's Eastern Shore for generations. Like the Kraft men before him, Bailey has river water in his veins, and a peculiar talent for finding fish: the Krafts are river royalty. But supporting a family by fishing is becoming increasingly difficult, and Bailey's father announces that he wants his son to go to college. Responding to this bombshell is only the first challenge Bailey must meet in the course of Robson's book. Bailey is surrounded in the story by a handful of characters who are as vividly imagined as he is: Robson has fleshed out her characters and explored their interlocking relationships more fully than most authors can in twice as many pages. The Course of the Waterman is a must read, for adults and young adults alike.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.