The Shining Sea is George Daughn’s newest addition to the world of War of 1812 literature. He follows the daring and hubristic voyage of a man and his ship destined for great things and ultimately failure. David Porter and the USS Essex have become renowned figures of the United States Navy. Porter’s exploits in the Pacific whaling ground were nothing short of dangerous to British merchant shipping (if only he hadn’t gotten too cocky!). Although he commanded an oddball ship that was armed with weapons he detested Porter made do. Combined with a good crew, the element of surprise and wily maneuvers Porter insured a name for himself in American history.
In a masterful retelling of a truly momentous adventure George Daughn narrates the story of an “epic voyage” wrought with peril and deception. The good part is that Daughn doesn’t attempt to sugar coat the facts. He strips away all the glory and heroics to reveal a very flawed man (I must admit, I had my suspicions, but now that those suspicions have been confirmed my respect for Porter has plummeted. On another note I think there was too much focus on certain inappropriate actions). And there is minimal bias either; if Porter was wrong he was wrong, if he was right he was right. Likewise with the Royal Navy. And if we’re in doubt Daughn presents us with research that sways the reader’s thinking so that we have an idea of what would have been acceptable at the time, what wasn’t, who overreacted, etc.
Overall this was a more “maritime” read. Readers who struggle with nautical references should be able to clear up any confusion by consulting the glossary located in the back of the book. In some ways this was a more complete retelling of the USS Essex’s voyage compared to The USS Essex.
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