Winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
“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 Hoares 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 (Nol 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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Genius … THE WHALE (is) a rhapsodic mediation on all things cetacean. Hoare is always on the lookout for the revealing detail. He also has a finely tuned sense of perspective and pacing.” Nathaniel Philbrick, New York Times Book Review
“Hoare is a splendid writer and a beguiling guide. I found the spell (he) casts powerful and difficult to shake.” Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A love letter to the ‘largest, loudest, oldest mammal ever to have existed, Brit biographer Hoares book romps through science, history and literature to chronicle his obsession with the mighty whale. Salted with astounding facts (the calls of blue whales were one mistaken for earthquakes), this is an exhilarating valentine.” People
“This singular, magnificent book inspires both awe and shameawe of the whales, shame of the human species that has tried to destroy them. In the end, Hoares virtuosic sympathy for his subject makes you believe in the better angels of our nature.” Alex Ross, bestselling author of THE REST IS NOISE
“A wonderful read!... Hoare magnificently weaves together his own experiences with stories about literary giants whose writings were inspired by whalesMelville, Hawthone, and Thoreauand he captures the utter beauty, size, and power of the whale.” Lynne Cox, author of GRAYSON
“[Hoares] work is rigorous, something every serious student of whales--and, more widely conceived, of the natural world--will want to have at hand.” Washington Post
“Philip Hoares writing is quite untrammelled by convention and opens up astonishing views at every turn.” W.G. Sebald
“Philip Hoares THE WHALE is everything you want from a book. It is unpredictable and amusing and informative and original, cavorting between biology, history, travel writing, and memoir with an engaging sense of the subjects charisma. And the book is even handsome.” Mark Kurlansky, author of SALT and COD
“You dont have to love Moby Dick to love this book. But if you do, THE WHALE is probably one of the most sublime reading experiences youll have this year.” NPR's All Things Considered
In the tradition of the bestselling Cod and The Secret Life of Lobsters comes this lively, prize-winning travelogue through the history, literature, and lore of the king of the sea: the whale.
From his childhood fascination with the gigantic Natural History Museum model of a blue whale to his adult encounters with the living animals in the Atlantic Ocean, the acclaimed writer Philip Hoare has been obsessed with whales. Journeying through human and natural history, The Whale
is the result of his voyage of discovery into the heart of this obsession and the book that inspired it: Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
Taking us deep into their domain, Hoare shows us these mysterious creatures as they have never been seen before. Following in Ishmael's footsteps, he explores the troubled history of man and whale; visits the historic whaling locales of New Bedford, Nantucket, and the Azores; and traces the whale's cultural history from Jonah to Free Willy.
Winner of the prestigious BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, The Whale is an unforgettable and often moving attempt to explain why these strange and beautiful animals still exert such a powerful hold on our imagination.
About the Author
Philip Hoare is the author of biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noël Coward and the historical studies Wilde's Last Stand, Spike Island and England's Lost Eden. He is also the writer and presenter of the BBC Arena film, The Hunt for Moby-Dick. He lives in Southampton, England.