THE BOAT AND THE TOWN by Geoffrey Moorhouse

THE BOAT AND THE TOWN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Boat is, to begin with, a deep-sea lobstering craft; the Town is a Massachusetts fishing port (obviously Gloucester); and just so long as Moorhouse is limning a double portrait--the buccaneering ethos of the Boat vis-…-vis the multiple, discordant lifelines of the Town--he writes a compelling narrative, at once descriptive and introspective. We put out to sea in the spring with the archetypal crew of five: the young college-trained Skipper, macho buddies Big Boy and Yank; a braggadocio Italian, Carlo; and town-boy Jonathan, the cub. We stand his first solo watch with Jonathan, elated to be in charge of the Boat. (This year, clearly, will be his initiation and assimilation.) In June, life ashore quickens. The Town's ""races"" display themselves, the Italians in the heady, headlong week-end of Fiesta; the boutiques open and the tourists flock in; the affluent summer-folk muster behind manned gates on the Point. (Seasonal shifts are a Moorhouse specialty; he writes discerningly of September as a ""hinge."") For the Boat, the fall is disastrous: a contretemps with the owner; two loads of lobster lost, accidentally poisoned in the tank; and after a period of debilitating idleness, Hurricane Holly. Then: a savage, shore-bound winter. The owner, beset, decides to convert the Boat to pair-trawling; and the men, spared their livelihood and their second home, are grateful--and, more, challenged, because pair-trawling (for herring and other mass-catches) is a new development, a bona fide hunt with the prospect, besides, of a killing. Moorhouse is superb on the new and old skills to be learned--the intricacies, for instance, of mending nets; and on all continuities-in-flux. The Boat is also changed by the loss of Carlo, fired after a blameless fight with Yank; a scapegoat, Jonathan realizes. And here--as, even more markedly, in Jonathan's romance with the older, troubled Ellen--Moorhouse's ""imaginative reconstruction"" totters. Carlo is killed on his new berth; Ellen, solaced by his mother during the hurricane (a stilted, clich‚d scene), grieves with her; and we are left with a familiar image of Anglo hegemony and ethnic roots. But it's the very shadings and ambiguities of the actually perceived--the life of Boat-and-Town that's the bulk of the book--that most shows up the falsity of the fictional.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1979
Publisher: Little, Brown