“Unpredictable and amusing and informative and original, cavorting between biology, history, travel writing, and memoir.”
The Whale by Philip Hoare is a enthralling and eye-opening literary leviathan swimming in similar bestselling waters as Cod and The Secret Life of Lobsters. Winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, The Whale is a lively travelogue through the history, literature, and lore of the king of the sea—the remarkable mammals that we human beings have long been fascinated with, from Moby Dick to Free Willy. Bestselling author and naturalist Bernd Heinrich calls it, “a moving and extraordinary book,” and Hoare’s sparkling account of swimming with these incredible behemoths will delight whale and wildlife aficionados, lovers of the sea and sea stories, as well as the socially and environmentally conscious reader.
A young boy's first glimpse of a whale in captivity matures into a writer's paean to the giants of the deep in this poetic blend of nautical history, literary allusion, personal experience, and natural science by British biographer Hoare (No l Coward). With Melville as his mentor and Ishmael as his muse, the author haunts one-time whaling town New Bedford, Mass., America's richest city in the mid 19th century thanks to whale oil and baleen (whalebone); recreates the cramped life on board the whalers of 200 years ago; weaves writing about whales by Emerson and Poe into his narrative; and finally revels in face-to-fin encounters with his obsession, swimming with the whales in the Atlantic. Though Hoare rhapsodizes most about the fabled sperm whale, the world's largest predator with a history dating back 23 million years, he also describes with succinct precision other species the beaked, blue, fin, humpback, and the killer whale, the sperm whale's only nonhuman predator. This tour de force is a sensuous biography of the great mammals that range on and under Earth's oceans.
I loved much of the writing in this book. I wish I would have read Moby Dick prior though. The author brings up Moby Dick and Herman Melville throughout the entirety. But the writing about cetaceans, and our understanding of them, was extremely eloquent and enlightening. What an alien species, that is yet such a close relative. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in biology.