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Honest review of Suzanne Heywood’s memoir Wavewalker

Updated on: 02 December,2023 12:12 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Nandini Varma | theguide@mid-day.com

A no-holds barred, soul-searching memoir brings to light the ebb and flow of a loving family out on the sea

Honest review of Suzanne Heywood’s memoir Wavewalker

Suzanne Heywood

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Suzanne Heywood’s memoir Wavewalker is not one that you can take in one sitting. The reason for it is that the book is filled with stories that come out of living in a confined space for 10 years, almost, as Heywood says, like in a prison. At the age of seven, she and her brother began sailing with their family on a schooner called Wavewalker to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of captain James Cook. The journey was hardly celebratory for the family. Instead, during this time, the children were learning to sit ‘on deck rubbing down the hatches and the gunwales with sandpaper,’ searching for food and fuel to help their father strike off places from the map, face sea storms, and fight sleep deprivation. This is a Joseph Conrad story that comes to life, except it is tougher. By the end of the book, you would have finished experiencing the everyday struggles of a child who grows up amidst water.


Of course, Heywood’s book is not against the activity of sailing itself. Her writing is clear and sharp. It suggests itself as a warning on what not to do as parents, considering the entire adventure took place because of her father’s desire to follow Cook’s third voyage. It isn’t a surprise, then, that some of the best and intimate moments in the book, and also for the two children during the 10-year voyage, were the stops they made and the people they encountered on land and aboard the ship. Although all of them were beyond Heywood and her brother’s age, they helped replace long periods of loneliness with brief minutes of comfort, company, and 
light conversations.


As a reader, one should not expect the writer to wax lyrical about the sea. Nor can you expect a style that is meditative. That is not her intention. What she offers instead is a book with a great deal of tension, injuries, wreckage, a yearning for education, and a complete lack of parental attention or contact. It is not an easy book to read but it is a relevant one that teaches us much about care, and what it took for Heywood to fight for survival.


TITLE: Wavewalker
AUTHOR: Suzanne Heywood
GENRE: Memoir/Non-fiction
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins Publishers India
COST: Rs 699

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