With few other choices left open, young Wellingborough Redburn signs on the Highlander, a merchant ship leaving New York City for England. Narrator Kirby Heyborne's youthful, easy performance expresses the intrepid Redburn's thoughts with charm and sympathy as he finds out that life at sea isn't what he'd naively expected. Heyborne, who has received numerous AudioFile Earphone Awards, as well as the Odyssey Award, describes Redburn's difficulties on the ship with dismay and resignation, and he intensifies the shock when the boy arrives in Liverpool and witnesses the corruption, desperation, and poverty there. As Redburn returns to New York, listeners will hear his new-found maturity in Heyborne's sober narration.
Drawn from Melville's own adolescent experience aboard a merchant ship, Redburn charts the coming-of-age of Wellingborough Redburn, a young innocent who embarks on a crossing to Liverpool together with a roguish crew. Once in Liverpool, Redburn encounters the squalid conditions of the city and meets Harry Bolton, a bereft and damaged soul, who takes him on a tour of London that includes a scene of rococo decadence unlike anything else in Melvilles fiction. Redburn is not a document; it is a work of art by the unexpected genius of a sailor, Herman Melville.
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"A funky autobiographical novel/bildungsroman"
It must be awful as a writer to dash off a novel for money or tobacco in a couple of weeks and have it praised, but see your earlier serious novel (Mardi) panned, and your later novel (Moby-Dick) under-appreciated until years after your death. That is the genius of a select group of writers -- they are destined to exist in this weird space between art and the public. Perhaps the strong bitter of Melville's art was just too early and too strange for the public, but they WERE ready for his swipes.
If you are into literature of the sea (The Sea Wolf, The Pilot, Captains Courageous, etc.,) or you are just into Melville, you will want to read this. If, however, this is your first Melville, I'd stick with Moby-Dick.
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