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Two in a boat (2005)

by Gwyneth Lewis

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534383,974 (3.2)1
When she was in her forties, recovering from depression and alcoholism, Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis decided to trade in her landlubber existence -- a house in Cardiff, Wales, and a responsible job at the BBC -- for life aboard a small yacht with her husband, Leighton, a former bosun with the Merchant Navy and now in his midsixties. After buying a yacht -- Jameeleh -- and teaching themselves to sail it (a process not without its fair share of disasters, from psychotic seas off St. Govan's Head to a battle with buoys off Ballycotton), Gwyneth and Leighton set out to cross the Atlantic. But Gwyneth's seasickness and Leighton's daily deterioration into Captain Bligh were not the only catastrophes they had to contend with. This strange, stirring, and often hilarious account of their voyage is as much a beginner's guide to sailing as it is a portrait of a marriage under pressure. Gwyneth Lewis's training, as a poet and a filmmaker, lends her prose a wonderfully visual quality, and her contagious optimism in the face of inconceivable adversity makes this unique memoir both witty and wise.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
A very honest and intimate book about a voyage and a marriage - which, as Lewis never tires of reminding us, are basically the same thing. At times, she tries a bit too hard to find parallels between events or discoveries on the voyage and her marriage or sees them as omens or symbols.
But I really admire her frankness about personal matters - health, marital problems and her perceived uselessness in handling a boat.
  Kindlegohome | Apr 4, 2018 |
Heartfelt story of a marriage ( )
  chicjohn | Dec 3, 2009 |
boring
  jrbeach | Aug 1, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
... At the book's start, Lewis is surfacing from a long period of clinical depression; Leighton is the rock who has seen her through it. Once afloat, these roles, which have largely defined their marriage, disintegrate, and in the confines of their little sloop, new ones emerge.

In the hands of a good writer, a modern sailboat can be as effective a device as a sailing ship was for Conrad. Cut loose from "normal" life ashore, they can serve as a crucible in which human behaviour unravels. Lewis is such a writer. She is earnest rather than subtle about this, illustrating her story with numerous well-observed analogies between boats and marriage and knots and couples, but it all works. ...

What might have been simply a rich, well-told yarn becomes a lot more when Leighton's descent turns unexpectedly dark, and, in retrospect, more understandable, giving the author a juicy if unwelcome narrative plot twist. Seasickness, a broken engine, bad weather, a visceral fear of the open sea, and the parallel intensifying turbulence of a marriage heading for the rocks, all suddenly become window dressing for a graver peril that, when revealed, the book seems to have been sailing toward all along. The whole journey then becomes prologue, and Lewis's voice and journey crest here in purpose and achievement. ...
 
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Epigraph
The water is wide,
I cannot get o'er,
And neither have I wings to fly.
Give me a boat that will carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.

Folk song.
Marriage is a long journey at close quarters.

Iris Murdoch.
Dedication
Not one page of this book could have been written without Leighton. If you've read this far, then you know exactly why the book as a whole is dedicated to him.

Acknowledgements.
First words
We purchased our first sailing boat by accident.

Chapter one. Call me Sea Bitch.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When she was in her forties, recovering from depression and alcoholism, Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis decided to trade in her landlubber existence -- a house in Cardiff, Wales, and a responsible job at the BBC -- for life aboard a small yacht with her husband, Leighton, a former bosun with the Merchant Navy and now in his midsixties. After buying a yacht -- Jameeleh -- and teaching themselves to sail it (a process not without its fair share of disasters, from psychotic seas off St. Govan's Head to a battle with buoys off Ballycotton), Gwyneth and Leighton set out to cross the Atlantic. But Gwyneth's seasickness and Leighton's daily deterioration into Captain Bligh were not the only catastrophes they had to contend with. This strange, stirring, and often hilarious account of their voyage is as much a beginner's guide to sailing as it is a portrait of a marriage under pressure. Gwyneth Lewis's training, as a poet and a filmmaker, lends her prose a wonderfully visual quality, and her contagious optimism in the face of inconceivable adversity makes this unique memoir both witty and wise.

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