Book Review: A Mile Down by David Vann

A Mile Down by David VannA Mile Down: What it is about

Windmill Books says: “In this inspirational memoir, internationally bestselling author David Vann tells the true story of building his own sailing ship and of the disastrous voyage that ensues.

As a thirty-year-old tourist in Turkey, David Vann stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat and decides to fulfill a long-buried dream: he will rebuild the boat. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows $150,000 to construct the ship and achieve his ambition.

However, when the Turkish builders take shameless advantage of him, eventually charging him over $500,000, Vann finds himself on the edge of financial ruin and decides to start a chartering business. Battling with construction nightmares, spiraling debts and freak storms, Vann begins to wonder if he is merely repeating his father’s failures at sea, and a career that led to tragedy.

At once a page-turning memoir of adventure on the open ocean and a tale of one man’s attempt to overcome fate and realise his dream, A Mile Down is an unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer of rare power.”

A Mile Down: What I thought

This was indeed a bit of a page turner, as it promises in the blurb! I read it during the 24-hour readathon, at the worst hours (when tiredness has set in), and it was very readable. It was a little depressing, though, as many of the things the author tries don’t work out for him. He knows the Turkish boat builders are taking advantage of him, but there is very little he can do, and he can only hope that the finished boat will be as he specified.

Later too, he meets mainly people who take advantage of him in some way, or refuse to help him. Worst is a captain at sea who does the very minimum to aid him when Vann’s boat is all but sinking. But slowly but surely, Vann meets people who are happy to help him out and things turn for the better. Or do they? It’s a journey of frustration, but great to read about.

Given that I would never buy a new house (too much hassle choosing wallpaper, a kitchen and bathroom, flooring, etc.), let alone have a house built from scratch, I was almost ill with the idea of having a boat built from scratch: that’s like a house with an engine. Think of all that could go wrong!! (Well, it did in this book.)

An enjoyable read, even for people like me, who don’t sail or would ever want to build their own boat.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 242

First published: 2005

I got this book: from a book shop

Genre: non-fiction

Extra: Other books by Vann I read: Sukkwan IslandCaribou Island, Dirt, Goat Mountain, Acquarium


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

5 Responses to Book Review: A Mile Down by David Vann

  1. sjoecable says:

    Awesome. Not my kind of book but that said looks fantastic.

  2. Laurie C says:

    I’m with you on having to make decorating choices on a house, much less building a boat from scratch! I’m not familiar with the author, but I will look him up!

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