Middle of the South Atlantic Ocean – How to be Brave – Louise Beech

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Why a booktrail?

1943 – The power of stories and how they can help us make sense of difficult times

Story in a nutshell

Two story lines linked by the power of a story

Rose is only young when she and her family are given the devastating news that she has type 1 diabetes and will need treatment for the rest of her life. Mum Natalie has to do what she can to help young Rose come to  terms with her illness so she starts by sharing the story of Natalie’s grandfather Colin who also endured a life changing experience in the hope that it will help them both see how someone else in her family endured a major challenge.

The diary of Rose’s grandfather share his unimaginable horrors and experiences he and his crew endured while adrift on a lifeboat. Right in the middle of the Atlantic with dwindling supplies and with danger all around.

This is the story of bravery

Place and setting

Cape Town - where the ship was sailing from to head to England 0A S Arm Rd V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa -33.903272, 18.430150 Cape Palmas Liberia When lost at sea, they estimate they’re off the Liberia coast up cape Harper, Liberia 4.369113, -7.728641 Ascension island The boat sank some 200 miles from this island  Ascension Island -7.922909, -14.406864 Freetown, West Africa Important to the story but no spoilers here Freetown, Sierra Leone
Cape Town – where the ship was sailing from to head to England
Cape Palmas Liberia
When lost at sea, they estimate they’re off the Liberia coast
Ascension island
The boat sank some 200 miles from this island
Freetown, West Africa
Important to the story but no spoilers here

The setting for this novel is unique for the landscape is grief dotted with hope and inspiration. Natalie and Rose live a nice life before the illness and diagnosis. Following the news, their life becomes one of pain and anguish as they come to terms with what it all means.

Navigating this rocky and unknown terrain, Natalie uses a story,a diary of her father Colin detailing his experience of being all adrift on a life raft in the middle of the ocean

The ghost of the narrator’s grandfather is everywhere – it is he holding both their hands as they navigate their own stormy waters.

The grandfather’s story was inspired by the author’s real life relative and it is this  – the story of a team of men who suddenly find themselves adrift in the middle of the Atlantic with dwindling supplies, hoping and hoping that they will be rescued. the passing of time, the isolation, the hope against hope that someone, soon will rescue them….something also felt by Natalie and Rose –

Nothing to do but watch the stars and try not to think what morning might bring

Underneath the bright, searing sun of the Equator, the working out where they must be –

No, the nearest mainland is Cape Palmas on the border of Liberia. Strong currents sweeping up the shores of Africa might bring us in line with the Europe-bound traffic. So that’s where we hope to reach – Africa”

Starving, their eyes seeing things they want to see, the desperately hope for a passing boat. Days pass, hope dwindles, hallucinations take over.

Never has the phrase ‘ all at sea’ described two very different stories merged into a tale of hope and determination.

Review

Prepare for tissues. You would never think that a story of illness merged with a story of sailors abandoned at sea would work but this does and more. It is about how one story can inspire hope in another and how bravery and grit comes in many different forms. A poor young girl with Type 1 diabetes and her mother who tries everything in addition to her treatment, to try and make things better. How heartwarming a story and how brave to use another story of survival against the odds. Shock and illness can make you feel alone, isolated and shut away from the outside world so to bring in someone who has endured these feelings albeit in a different way works so well. Remarkably this is based on true fact and the image on the front cover shows the men in the boat in between the healing hands of mother and daughter.

Remarkable. The power of stories really can change the world.

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