Sea Trial

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 1 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Brian Harvey's father was the subject of a malpractice suit which destroyed his life and his sense of self. Harvey gets on a boat to sail around Vancouver island with his wife and his dog, carrying the documents about the case with him. Mixing sailing with neurosurgery may feel weird, but the memoir elements of the story make for a beautiful read, and there's some deeply poignant emotion about this man, his father, their relationship and the moment in the Operating Room that Harvey has come to think of so much. This is a really lovely read.
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The twin subjects of sailing and neurosurgery do at first sight seem quite incongruous and yet they indeed successfully form the interconnecting basis for this engrossing, entertaining and educational memoir by Brian Harvey. This is a book about discovery both in a physical and metaphysical sense. The main narrative concerns Brian accompanied by his wife and faithful dog undertaking a rather hazardous two month circumnavigation of  Vancouver Island in his sailing boat named Vera. Written in a self deprecating and witty style (reminiscent of Bill Bryson at times) we learn of the adventures, mishaps and characters encountered during the voyage. 

You get a real feeling of what it must be like battling in a small boat against the elements and the dangers poised by rocks, rapids and other vessels. All the time you are constantly looking at sea charts and focusing on the latest weather report. We also learn of the social and environmental changes and challenges faced in this area. The decline of commercial fishing and the rise of sport fishing and the impact this has had on the local communities is covered. Allied with this is the controversy concerning the growth of salmon farms and the environmental impact that logging has had over the years. We learn of the colonial history of the area and the present rather segregated plight of the indigenous First Nations communities.. 

If this was just a narrative of the voyage then this would still be enough to satisfy the average reader but what gives the book its added resonance and distinctiveness is the back story concerning Brian's neurosurgeon father who after eight years of retirement is unexpectedly presented with a summons to appear in a malpractice trail. Although the case commences, his father never testifies as it is quickly settled out of court with the award of a large sum to the plaintiff. Dr. Harvey never got over it and would spend the rest of his life embittered and consumed by the accusations made against him. It is a box containing records, transcripts and expert testimonies relating to this case that Brian takes with him on the voyage as he finally seeks to understand what actually happened in the operating theatre and why the trial had such a detrimental effect on his father's last days.

I certainly found the interchanging narrative worked well and was eager to ascertain what would be the conclusion to both the sea voyage and the voyage of what would ultimately be of self discovery. The author has spent many years as a fisheries biologist which adds an extra resonance and authority to his writing. A really gripping and interesting read which I fully recommend.
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