I often profess to have an affinity with the sea and naturally I love to travel. When an occasion arises in a novel when the characters embark on a life-changing adventure, there is something particularly exciting when a ship and the perilous ocean are involved. I’m sure there are tons of stories out there that involve a long water-based journey but I’m limiting myself only to what I have read. If you’ve read an ocean voyage novel of note, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, here in no particular order, are my current sea-faring faves!
How could I not include this classic pirate story fraught with adventure, buccaneers and the promise of riches. It is a coming of age story where a young man sets off to sea to locate some fabled treasure although he is not the only one who has set his sights on the prize. I’ll admit, it has been a while since I last read the book or even watched any of the screen adaptations (Muppets anyone?) but just the title evokes imagery of tropical islands, chests heaving with gold and pirates sailing on the high seas.
2. The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl
Leading on from above, I had to include this novel after I enjoyed it so much. The story follows the lives of two high profile, rival bookaneers (that’s literary pirates if you don’t know) who both take to the ocean in one last attempt to score big in what is fast becoming a dying profession. They make their way to Samoa to where author Robert Louis Stevenson has made his home, in a bid to try and steal his latest unpublished masterpiece. The ship journey to Samoa is turbulent to say the least, and even more adventure is afoot once all players reach the island and the real challenge begins!
3. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor
Of course, not all ocean journeys need to feature pirates, as demonstrated with my next few picks. Star of the Sea tells the passage of the title vessel from Ireland to America. The passengers are a varied mix of people; rich and poor, good and bad, young and old. The story weaves between all the characters and details every day of the journey. Out at sea, there is no escape from fellow passengers, and as each person on board has their own agenda the reader slowly learns that many are linked in ways the characters themselves may never know.
This is the first book in a three part series which starts off following the lives of crooked business partners Mary and Ikey in London, in the 19th Century. Their wicked ways soon catch up with them and both are sent separately to a penal colony in Tasmania. Both of their journeys are detailed, as well as the lives of other leading characters that are also uprooted from their homes and sent away to a brand new world. Bryce Courtenay is a talented author that wrote with great historical accuracy and emotion. I have enjoyed many of his books and definitely recommend The Potato Factory series.
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Last but not least, this is not what you might initially class as an ‘awesome ocean voyage’ but it is certainly a unique one! Following a ship crash, Pi Patel finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with some survivors from his family’s zoo. With nothing but the open ocean around him, this novel is more survival story than anything else, but it is gripping nonetheless.