Book Review: Trawler by Redmond O’Hanlon


Trawler (2003) by Redmond O’Hanlon is one of those books where a novice goes on board a commercial fishing boat to see how hard life is for the trawlermen and finds it hard in ways one never imagined.  No big surprise there, but what O’Hanlon does in this book is write almost entirely in dialogue rather than description.  This means that O’Hanlon either brought on board a recording device or has a photographic memory for conversation.  Either way it’s remarkable considering that O’Hanlon spends much of the journey seasick, sleep-deprived, and unable to stay on his feet as the trawler Norlantean heads into a Force 12 hurricane.

Much of O’Hanlon’s conversation is with Luke the marine biologist conducting field studies on board the trawler.  But there is also the captain Jason, revered by his crew, and cast of tough fishermen, sometimes tight-lipped and sometimes revelatory in an almost hallucinatory way.  The discussion varies from oceanography to ichthyology, superstition and religion, masculinity to mortality, and sometimes just plain crudity.  O’Hanlon seems to make a pest of himself and gets a good bit of jibing in return.

This book not quite what I’d imagined it would be but it’s a good, solid book.

Here are some better reviews than mine:

Author O’Hanlon, Redmond, 1947-
Title Trawler / Redmond O’Hanlon.
Publication Info. New York : Vintage Books, 2006..
Edition 1st Vintage Departures ed.
Description 339 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 21 cm.