This is a tale of the sea, of two men and their wives on a sailboat, moving toward the heart of a great storm. It is an adventure story that carries four travelers on the yawl Harmony from Edgartown to Menemsha to Block Island and thence out into a huge, dark cone of uncertainty. In the modulating airs of the voyage four personalities emerge to work changes on each other. The two marriages seem to react to the barometer. As the drama of the storm gathers and breaks, themes are sounded of escape and confrontatoin, of illusion, of the “secret place” that every boat and every person harbors, of a meticulousness, a prudent attention to the details of life, which can blind a man to the whole of reality, and also of endurance, of instinctively courageous seamanship, and of strength that the strong may not know they possess even as they exert it. The skipper, a young doctor, follows his obsession to the terrible goal to which it must lead him at the moment wehn the calm eye of the storm looks down on the tiny boat in the violent sea. The four visions of the characters, which seem to have been focused on the one experience, reveal themselves as sharply at variance with each other, so that a final “truth” of the story has to be bargained out. And in the end that truth turns out to be an irony.
John Hersey was born in Tientsin, China, in 1914 and lived there until 1925, when his family returned to the United States. He studied at Yale and Cambridge, served for a time as Sinclair Lewis’s secretary, and then worked several… More about John Hersey