From the Jacket: On a hot summer's day
there could be no quicker transport to the seaside than Trevor
Norton's cool and entrancing account of a lifetime's adventures
under or near the water. Norton's eye for the bizarre, amazing,
and beautiful inhabitants of the oceans, and the eccentric
characters who work, study, and live by the shore make his book
a wonder-filled experience. An intrepid diver and distinguished
scientist, Norton's writing is self-deprecating, very funny, and
full of wry and intriguing anecdotes; he is an unfailingly
delightful companion. Whether his setting is a bed of jewel
anemones in an Irish lough, a giant California cavern shared
with sea lions, a mildewed research station, or the glittering
coral gardens of Sharm el Sheikh, his captivating prose always
finds the mark. Sometimes following the shoreline with earlier
beachcombers such as Darwin, John Steinbeck, and George Orwell,
Norton also takes the reader to depths where the shapes of
creatures living without sunlight defy imagination. Admirers of
the gorgeous detail of Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us
will revel in Norton's writing, his observations, and irreverent
Comment: Underwater to Get Out of the Rain is a gentle, amusing and informative read but it is a little misleading to call it autobiographical as the flow of the book is only loosely connected to the events in Norton's life, with significant life moments providing jumping off points for enjoyable tangents.
It is these tangents that are the charm, and ultimately the weakness, of the book. They vary from minutiae such as how and why snail slime works so well, to broader topics such as global warming, over-fishing, famous divers he has known, and the effect of the moon (did you know that a cruise liner is approximately 7 pounds lighter when the moon is overhead?).
Despite Norton's wit and encyclopedic knowledge, after a while the rambling takes on the feel of a "brain dump" rather than a well-structured book, and teeters into self-indulgence towards the end. The saving grace is Norton's deep and profound love of the sea which shines clearly on every page, which is enough to amply redeem Underwater To Get Out of The Rain from its arguable faults.
This review was originally published in June 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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