At Sea

We just returned from an extraordinary three-week trip which included a 12-day cruise of Australia and New Zealand. Here are the cities we visited: Sydney, Melbourne, Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga, and Auckland. We explored by ship, tender, tram, bus, steamboat, and on foot. The scenery in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand was breathtaking.

Sydney is a sophisticated harbor city of over 4 million people–it reminded us of Chicago. New Zealand is a gorgeous, young, vibrant country with more sheep than people. If these destinations are on your dream list, I urge you to go.


When we embarked, we were amused to discover that our stateroom was on Deck 10—The Library Deck! It was a lovely two-deck-high space with lots of light. Every time I passed by, there were people reading books and iPads.

Of course I checked out the collection, and was surprised by its quality. I had expected a ragtag bunch of books. Instead I found a neatly shelved popular collection. There were many titles with 2012 publication dates. I noticed The Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar (Suzanne Johnson) looked like it had spent time in the water—had it been rescued from the ocean?

I often assert that the quality of life of a city can be measured by the viability of its public library. Perhaps a cruise ship can be judged in a similar fashion–we found the services and accommodations delightful aboard the Celebrity Solstice.

During the days at sea, I explored all the outdoor seating areas looking for just the right sunny nook. It was such a pleasure to see the blue water, feel the sun, and read a book.

From the library I borrowed The Age of Desire by Nashville author Jennie Fields (2012). The novel explores the relationship between Edith Wharton, and her tutor and friend Anna Bahlmann. I also succumbed to the lure of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012), which has been on the bestseller lists for months. I was glad to be reading outdoors, so that the fresh sea breezes could blow away the book’s pathological malaise.

I took along Independent People by Halldor Laxness (1946), a saga, both elemental and comic, of the sheep farmer Bjartur of Summerhouses, Iceland. It seemed an apropos choice for New Zealand travel. For the long plane ride, I loaded on my iPad a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon. If you don’t know this series set in Venice, Italy, I suggest it to you. But the best book I read on my trip was the new book by Kent Haruf titled Benediction (2013). It is a beautifully written, quiet book describing the love of family and friends as they await the death of the father, “Dad Lewis.”

These books are available at your local public library and at Parnassus Books, NashvilleImage


One comment on “At Sea

  1. Juli Mosley says:

    Thanks Donna for your thoughtful writing. I’m ready for the trip and the reads. Juli

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