Beginning to read “Ship of Fools” was like putting together a 2000 piece puzzle. The personages embark on a ship in an exotic Mexican port. They are as dissimilar and disparate as grains of sand. Yet as the sea voyage progresses from Mexico to Germany, the passengers come together in a fascinating interaction that reveals each individual’s inner motivations, failings, wickedness, and compassion. The final image is a rich spectrum of humanity. One almost regrets it when the voyage ends.

It took Katherine Anne Porter 20 years to write this book. It didn’t take me 20 years to read it, but almost. Patience is the byword.

From blurb: The story takes place in the summer of 1931, on board a cruise ship bound for Bremerhaven, Germany. The passenger list is long and portentous, and includes a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, and a host of others. This ship of fools is a crucible of intense experience, out of which everyone emerges forever changed. Rich in incident, passion, and treachery, the novel explores themes of nationalism, cultural and ethnic pride, and basic human frailty that are as relevant now as they were when the novel first appeared in 1962.

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