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In the Afterword, Laurie Gwen Shapiro states that Billy Gawronski's story could be something so outlandish that a novelist could've written it. It has it all: a young man's plucky relentlessness, the roaring 20s, Antarctica, etc. And it's true it has all that -but- Shapiro wrote it, not a novelist, and she takes all the fun out of it. In her hands, The Stowaway is just a nice story about a good kid.
Don't expect adventure and exploration. Billy doesn't make the cut and has to sail home while the good stuff takes place. Then the book simply becomes a story of him doing a few interviews, kicking around, and asking his parents for money.
Don't get me wrong. Gawronski is a fine young man, it's just that the story drags and doesn't hit the highs it could've hit. I'm glad that adventure got in his blood and, after a sorry marriage, he went on to serve his country. But The Stowaway isn't proclaimed to be about that, so just expect that in the Epilogue.
Jacques Roy elevates it a bit with a fine performance, good with tucking some excitement into where the story doesn't have much, and he does a decent job with toned-down accents. So it was a decent enough listen.
I just expected what the publisher's summary set forth, and The Stowaway doesn't quite deliver on the adventure/exploration aspect.
Hmmm... Upon further review, the summary is a bit vague on all that, so perhaps I was mistaken in expecting more excitement... Most unfortunate...
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Reads like a novel, but it’s all true. The author’s research is fascinating, and I didn’t want the story to end.
The narrator does a wonderful job, and even his attempt at a Polish accent is passable (Though he only does this briefly). Even the author notes were riveting (Though I wish she had read these herself, it was disconcerting having a male voice).
Truly a great story. Had me cheering and booing in the car. Had to repeatedly remind myself that it is non-fiction!
What disappointed you about The Stowaway?
After listening for 3 hours, still nowhere near Antarctica or anything remotely resembling adventures at sea or elsewhere.
Billy's life story is very mundane, no entertainment value there, and the vague background stories of polar explorers that could have added lots of interest is very matter of fact,
Has The Stowaway put you off other books in this genre?
I love this genre. Anything about early explorers, adventure travel, pioneering - I'll listen to it.
Shackleton's story for example is my idea of the greatest story ever told.
But this one simply makes me wonder why this character was chosen as someone to write about.
There's nothing engaging about his childhood story or his personality and it turns out that stowaways were a dime a dozen at the time. There were three on his boat alone. So the premise of the brave and daring stowaway evaporates pretty much from the beginning.
How could the performance have been better?
The narrator is extremely downbeat and monotone.
There's no trace of humour or enthusiasm, in fact I'd say he sounds distinctly uninterested in what he's reading.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Stowaway?
Would definitely cut the clunky references to the girlfriend he possibly had - or not.
There was a thin story about his high school girlfriend that really had no substance and no relevance whatsoever. And came across like an exercise to fill a page or tick a box.
Any additional comments?
If you are particularly interested in this era in New York City, and the immigrants of the time AND you're obsessed with anything at all to do with seagoing exploration AND you like a story that rolls slowly along in a ho-hum way without anything particularly interesting to break the flow - you might love it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful