Canadian Stories of the Sea Edited by Victor Suthren

A great place to pick up used books (other than a used bookstore) are thrift shops. I found this book in a Value Village in Fredericton and purchased it for $2. The editor, Victor Suthren (a sailor himself) has done an excellent job of collecting various Canadian sea stories and organising them chronologically. In addition, he writes a brief introduction to each chapter as well a paragraph acting as a sort of segue into the next story. In this way, he is able to take us down through time and history as the book progresses. It is especially helpful in filling in gaps and making some quantum leaps in nautical history.

The eight chapters take us from aboriginal stories of the sea down to modern times, going through early explorers, the war on the Great Lakes, whaling, special ships like the Bluenose, as well as WWII and the Merchant Marine. Conspicuous by its absence is anything to do with the Coast Guard. Also absent are any sketches, maps or other illustrations that might have been helpful. I should also mention that all the stories are actual accounts by those that experienced them, or are by authors recounting an event. This is not a collection of fictional accounts.

The authors represented here are notable: Joseph Schull, Captain James Cook, Joshua Slocum, Hal Lawrence, James Lamb and Farley Mowat, to highlight just a few. This is the type of book you can pick up and start reading anywhere, it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover. However, reading it in this way gives a fuller sense of Canadian maritime history down through the ages.

I gave it 3 stars out of 5 on Goodreads because of its lack of illustrations, and omissions such as the Canadian Coast Guard as mentioned previously. Of course, no volume could cover everything about Canada and the sea, but I thought a few more accounts of Canada’s Navy around WWII might have been warranted since Canada emerged from that war with the third largest navy.

At any rate, this book makes a great introduction for the novice interested in Canadian maritime history.

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