Though he is primarily regarded as a travel writer, Raban’s accounts often blend the story of a journey with rich discussion of the history of the water through which he travels and the land around it. Even as he maintains a dispassionate and often unforgiving stance towards the people he meets on his travels, he does not shirk from sharing his own perceived foibles and failings with the reader. Frequently, Raban’s autobiographical accounts of journeys taken mirror transformations in his own life or the world at large: Old Glory takes place during the buildup to Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 presidential election, Coasting as the Falklands War begins, and Passage to Juneau as the failure of the author’s marriage becomes apparent. Similarly melancholic and personal themes of turmoil and loss can be detected in his novels.
Mr. Raban's ... style ... can be described as a sort of English Capote: vivid, funny, accurate, full of hyperbolic wit and outrageous metaphor; no reticence at all. But at least as important is the author's ability to make an instant connection with virtually any human being whomsoever. Noel Perrin, New York Times