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The Whale is an extraordinary journey into the world of this fascinating and mysterious animal. Acclaimed writer Philip Hoare visits the historic whale-hunting towns of New Bedford and Nantucket, wanders the streets of London and Liverpool in search of Melville's whaling inspiration, and swims with sperm whales in the middle of the Atlantic. Through the course of his journey he explores the troubled history of man and whale; traces the whale's cultural history from Jonah to Moby-Dick, Pinocchio to Free Willy; and seeks to discover why these strange and beautiful animals continue to exert such a powerful grip on our imagination. A blend of the travel and nature writing in the tradition of Jonathan Raban and John McPhee, The Whale is a gripping voyage into the heart of Hoare’s obsession - and ours.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By John on 12-15-10
Some great insights, but too much digression
The uniqueness of this book – combining historical, biological and personal narrative – also makes it a bit hard to follow, especially as an audiobook. In the printed version, quotes from Melville and others are set off from the rest of the text, making them easier to distinguish (or skip), and there are also dozens of illustrations and historical photographs that illuminate the stories. Reduced to a single audio narrative, it loses focus. I also think the narrator is somewhat miscast.
The writing itself is very good, and covers a huge amount of research and reference. Whales are portrayed in language poetic, wondrous, surprising, and occasionally profane (sensitive ears be warned!) You can see the author's inquisitive mind at work as he tries to uncover the essence of these creatures. Unfortunately the journey takes us in so many directions, readers may feel like those whalers at sea, weary from the long periods between actual whale sightings.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Barbara on 01-03-12
OK, but doesn't do it for me
I'm a geek and would like a lot more facts. There are some in this book, but they are heavily diluted by "Whales are really awesome." "Whale are big. Really big." "Let me use some great poetic language to tell you that whales are really amazing animals." "Whales are awe inspiring." (Ok, those aren't real quotes, but they're my take-away from the book. It all depends on what you're looking for in a book.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful