Sea State: A Memoir - book cover
  • Publisher : Ecco
  • Published : 07 Dec 2021
  • Pages : 240
  • ISBN-10 : 0063030837
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063030831
  • Language : English

Sea State: A Memoir

A Recommended Read from: Vogue * The Los Angeles Times * Publishers Weekly * The Week * Lit Hub

A stunning and brutally honest memoir that shines a light on what happens when female desire conflicts with a culture of masculinity in crisis

In her midthirties and newly free from a terrible relationship, Tabitha Lasley quit her job at a London magazine, packed her bags, and poured her savings into a six-month lease on an apartment in Aberdeen, Scotland. She decided to make good on a long-deferred idea for a book about oil rigs and the men who work on them. Why oil rigs? She wanted to see what men were like with no women around.

In Aberdeen, Tabitha became deeply entrenched in the world of roughnecks, a teeming subculture rich with brawls, hard labor, and competition. The longer she stayed, the more she found her presence had a destabilizing effect on the men-and her.

Sea State is on the one hand a portrait of an overlooked industry: "offshore" is a way of life for generations of primarily working-class men and also a potent metaphor for those parts of life we keep at bay-class, masculinity, the transactions of desire, and the awful slipperiness of a ladder that could, if we tried hard enough, lead us to security.

Sea State is on the other hand the story of a journalist whose professional distance from her subject becomes perilously thin. In Aberdeen, Tabitha gets high and dances with abandon, reliving her youth, when the music was good and the boys were bad. Twenty years on, there is Caden: a married rig worker who spends three weeks on and three weeks off. Alone and in an increasingly precarious state, Tabitha dives into their growing attraction. The relationship, reckless and explosive, will lay them both bare.

Editorial Reviews

"Sea State is, itself, a hybrid of sorts: an investigation that is also a confession but reads a lot like a novel. It is a startlingly original study of love, masculinity and the cost of a profession that few outside of it can truly understand. The cost to Lasley herself is yet to be revealed." -- The Guardian

"Sea State is so many things at once: an exploration of class, masculinity, desire, and the ways in which the work we do defines us. But alongside these huge subjects, it's quite simply the story of a young woman who is lonely and finds herself in close proximity to a lot of lonely men. I was so impressed by how deftly Tabitha Lasley moves between the personal and the academic, and how much authority she maintains throughout. This is a truly powerful memoir." -- Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes

"A brutally honest account of need and loss." -- Los Angeles Times

"A sharp take on masculinity, class and the intoxicating danger of attraction."  -- People

"Lasley has written a unique book, a cross between Bill Buford's Among the Thugs and Simone de Beauvoir's The Prime of Life: reportage on the English working class that is also a lucid travelogue." -- BookForum

"A raw, bold, unsparing memoir." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Acidic, addictive reporting . . . Sea State's writing alone is worth the admission price." -- Financial Times

"These are powerful and moving stories of working lives in a dangerous and all-male environment, made all the more powerful by the way Lasley refuses to absent herself from the telling." -- The Millions

"In this breathtaking debut, Lasley, a former journalist, interrogates class, love, and politics as she chronicles the months she spent interviewing offshore oil riggers in Aberdeen, Scotland… Rendered in irresistible prose, her whirlwind affair becomes a humanizing subplot and an arresting character study of the prototypical oil rigger, one who compartmentalizes home and work, wife and mistress, lavish spending and crushing isolation. The result is a compassionate portrayal of what it takes to survive an inhospitable corner of the world." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Grippingly candid and savagely self-aware."  -- Esquire (UK)

Readers Top Reviews

This book is so special, it’s unlike anything I have read before. The writing style is second to none with sharp descriptions, and punchy language. I couldn’t put it down and enjoyed every word. It’s about her relationship with a married rigger but is peppered with stories and facts from the oil industry, giving an interesting insight into the life of riggers both on and offshore. I particularly liked the last chapter where as she is leaving Aberdeen she tells the end of her Caden story to a rigger she meets. This made the book come full circle for me as she was the one interviewing and listening to riggers’ stories throughout the book, the whole reason she went to Aberdeen to write the book in the first place. Now she has the final say and gets to tell her story, tying up the book nicely. Many reviews say the book is about men, class, marriage, desire but for me the strong theme running through it was ‘home’ with the author trying to figure out what, where, and who, her home is. Overall a brilliant read and very clever - I can’t wait for her next book.
A debut from a former journalist who writes with poetic precision. The book couples keen observational journalistic skills (including transcripts from interviews) with lucid prose, so exact, the words are so carefully placed. Some reviews that I have read of this book focus on the moral element of the writer's choice to have an affair with a married man. If this were a novel, the choice of a writer to fictionalise an affair would not be criticised so this point, I believe, is moot. When I read, I don't read to make a moral judgement, I don't want to exist above the characters or the writers, looking down on them. Instead I want to experience things along with them; through their words, through what is shown to me rather than what is told to me. When I read 'Sea State' I could clearly feel things that Lasley wasn't explicitly telling me. It is very funny, sardonic even. Lasley is always the cleverest person in the room, she doesn't tell us this, it is patent. It is really sad. There is an pervasive notion of it being a last ditch attempt, after a life time of car crash relationships. Despite the bravado, the slut dress and fake feckles, Lasley says 'I was nobody's wife'. We are sure that she must have been able to see through Caden's vanity, his deceit and his platitudes, she as much as tells us so. It is not however a mystery why she throws everything in for this married rigger, the interwoven anecdotes and memories display to us that what has led to this. At the outset, we are told that the book was planned to be about men without women. We see this in a way that scratches the surface. It the way that they won't let a 'lass' buy a drink, that they pile into the rec room when a girl is wearing hot pants, that they can't talk to an attractive woman without trying to pull her. It is however only men with a herd mentality, only the 'Boro' lads on tour'; occasionally there are moments when there are break throughs in the interviews and a moment of crystal clarity presents itself but only in these isolated moments do we see how men are away from each other. To me, the book was about women. About the sorts of cultures you can get into or opt of out; the cultures of baby showers, dressing up for the races and constant self advertising. It was about Lasley herself, about the moments of varying degrees that turn us into the people that we are and lead us to accept any kinds of shit that are thrown at us. It is about all the women marketed 'like Camargue horses' with no prospects who will fight tooth and nail for a man who has no respect for them or for any women at all. It is about giving your daughter a posh name to give her chances. It is about not having your friends around. For me, the best part is Chapter 4, like a song with an extraordinary bridge, the middle part of the book absolutely sang. The writing about drug taking was g...
The quality of the writing is amazing. Everything is described so vividly and cinematically that you can practically smell it. Characters leap off the page, deftly conjured with a few physical details and a memorable turn of phrase. I wolfed the whole book in a few sittings, and stayed up way past my bedtime. It’s as delicious and addictive as piping-hot gossip from an articulate and unguarded friend. The whole thing is an odd mix of serious journalism and memoir, with a dark undertow of dread and longing. The author has spent a worrying amount of time hanging out in scary bars in Aberdeen, half-cut, interviewing fairly terrifying men. She got some good stuff. There are flashes of real insight into the profound horribleness of offshore life, along with equally compelling details about an ill-advised affair with an oil-rig worker (it doesn’t sound all that much fun, and ends predictably badly). If Tabitha Lasley speaks as well as she writes, she’ll absolutely kill it on the talk-show and podcast interview circuit. I’ll read anything she publishes.

Featured Video