Book Review | The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

Originally published September 19, 2016, the blog post may have been edited for clarity and updated with relevant information and links.

On my most recent trip to the bookstore, I furiously paced shelf to shelf, genre to genre, trying to decide what I wanted to read.

The Starboard Sea was a shelf or two above a book of short stories about romantic flings and affairs in Paris. The black and white cover and the red, embossed title on the binding stood out among the busier, bolder books. The nautical phrase also caught my eye—I was still searching for ways to keep summer alive. 

I would be lying if the “100 Notable Books The New York Times Book Review” sticker didn’t also influence my decision.

The novel shares the story of Jason Prosper, a young sailor, and his privileged life among Upper East Side apartments, New England summer homes, private schools, and Ivy League legacies.

What gives the novel substance is understanding the shadows in Prosper’s past, as well as the unspoken truths behind all of the characters in his life—his family, his fellow Bellingham Academy classmates, and everyone else tangled in the elite web. 

Prosper’s credibility is established through his innate sailing abilities, yet it is through his honest thoughts and admissions that Dermont makes Prosper’s story worthwhile.

It’s intriguing reading about such a level of exclusivity. There were some references that sounded vaguely familiar—sailing regattas at St. George’s, mentioning the inevitability of winding up in Greenwich—but the powerful prose provides an insightful perspective on the true cost of living the high life. 

Although the novel takes place in 1987, Prosper’s story of navigating love and friendship as a teenager transcends the decades—sailor or not, everyone strives to find their starboard sea. 

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A Francophile based in coastal New England

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