The Brendan Voyage

post written by Emma Filbrun

The Brendan Voyage by Tim SeverinTitle: The Brendan Voyage
Author: Tim Severin
Series: Modern Library Exploration
Major Themes: Boats, Exploration, Ireland, Sailing, Saint Brendan
Synopsis: Five men attempt to sail a skin boat across the North Atlantic Ocean to prove that Irish monks could have done it in the 6th century.

When I was visiting my sister a few months ago, I borrowed her copy of The Brendan Voyage. On the way home, I read a few chapters, but then didn’t pick it up again for awhile. I left it on a handy shelf for when I would have time for it again, and was a little surprised when my 8-year-old chose it for a read-aloud! I decided to give it a try, since the first chapter or two had been pretty exciting. Before we finished the first chapter, everyone wanted me to read them the whole book, and it held their interest all the way through!

Tim Severin tells the story in this book of how his wife noticed, when studying an ancient story titled The Voyage of Brendan, how detailed the account was. Many of its stories seemed pretty fantastic, but it seemed to her that there must be a fair amount of truth behind them. Severin became intrigued by the idea of the monks sailing a skin boat across the North Atlantic from Ireland to the New World, and decided to see if it could be done.

In this book, Severin describes how he came across the last few boats of the type that Brendan would have used, and all the different materials he had to source, as well as rediscover old skills that had been lost. Then, he describes the voyage itself, with four or five men in a small open boat. What a fascinating account! We were enthralled pretty much all the way through this book. Even though the chapters were long, often taking 30-40 minutes to read one, we all wanted to keep going. If you enjoy real-life adventure, this is a book for you. It’s also for you if you are interested in history, in what might have happened that the history textbooks leave out, and it’s for you if you love a real detective story, as the author tries to unravel the clues hidden in the old legends.

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