The Whale

  • by Philip Hoare
  • Narrated by Michael Page
  • 11 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The whale is the largest, loudest, oldest animal ever to have existed. It is improbable, amazing and - as anyone who has seen an underwater documentary or visited the display at the American Museum of Natural Historycan attest - a powerful source of wonder and delight to millions.
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.


What the Critics Say

"[A]deeply moving and thought-provoking biography of the planet’s toughest, yet most vulnerable of prehistoric survivors. The Whale takes us well beyond the limits of what we can see, hear or otherwise objectively "know" about whales, and offers a much more vivid sense of their true magnitude." ( review)
"This tour de force is a sensuous biography of the great mammals that range on and under Earth's oceans." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- John


I don't know what is worse: the banal blathering of Philip Hoare's emotional reminiscing on any subject even tangentially related to whales for HOURS, the narrators apparent love affair with his own tongue, or the disrespectfully irrelevant quotes from "great authors of the sea" at the beginning of each chapter.
Do yourself a favor and go deaf rather than listen to this blowhole.
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- RT

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2010
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio