I first heard about William Finnegan’s surfing memoir Barbarian Days when one of my very favourite authors, Emylia Hall, recommended it to me. I’d read and adored her novel The Sea Between Us; which was set on Cornwall’s rugged coastline and was a tale of surf and sand and love and loss and she later recommended I read Barbarian Days. It then re-appeared on my radar when one of my favourite book bloggers, Margot from Project Lectito, read it as part of her book club. And while I was on a self-inflicted book-buying ban ahead of my move to LA, when the bookseller at my favourite bookstore in Bondi – Gertrude & Alice – told me it was the best book on surfing ever written, I caved, and bought said book.
Compared to the other books I’ve read of late, Barbarian Days was a slow starter. While the prose and the syntax were both achingly good, that the book wasn’t driven by plot made it a less compelling read than I’ve become accustomed to in recent weeks.
Once I got back into the rhythm of reading however, I found myself enthralled and fascinated in equal parts by Finnegan’s surfing memoir. A adventurous tale that takes Finnegan across the globe – from California to Hawaii to Bali and beyond – we discover the passion and addiction that forms an integral part of the author’s identity and lies at the core of many surfers. We learn about the risks surfers are willing to take, the things they are willing to sacrifice and the unwavering obsession that comes with chasing waves.
Whether you have a surfer’s bone in your body or not, Barbarian Days makes for an insightful read that will have you dreaming of days spent in far-flung idylls with nothing but waves and water for company.