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Turtle Diary Paperback – December 1, 1978

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Paperback, December 1, 1978
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Avon Books (Mm) (December 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380390817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380390816
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,667,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“It's this dissonance between the simple turtle story and the irresolvable adult story that makes Turtle Diary a quiet masterpiece.” —Bookforum

“It is an insightful and droll novel about mid-life discontents, entirely timely for the readers who grew up on his books and who now have children and crises of their own. Out of print for several years, this new edition of "Turtle Diary," with an introduction by Ed Parks, gives us a chance to discover a different Hoban – not the earlier children’s author and not the later fantasy novelist – and to be charmed by what’s in between.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“A story about the recovery of life...Like other cult writers—Salinger for instance, or Vonnegut—Hoban writes about ordinary people making life-affirming gestures in a world that threatens to dissolve in madness." —Newsweek
"Crackles with witty detail, mordant intelligence and self-deprecating irony." —Time
"This wonderful, life-saving fantasy will place Russell Hoban where he has got to be--among the greatest, timeless novelists." —The Times (UK)
"The marvellous energy of Mr. Hoban's writing, simultaneously dry and passionate, justifies everything he does." —Times Educational Supplement

"Russell Hoban is our ur-novelist, a maverick voice that is like no other. He can take themes that seem too devastating for contemplation and turn them into allegories in which wry, sad humour is married to quite extraordinary powers of imagery and linguistic fertility that makes each book a linguistic departure." —Sunday Telegraph
  --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Russell Hoban (1925–2011) was the author of more than seventy books for children and adults. Hoban worked as a commercial artist and advertising copywriter before embarking on a career as a children’s author while in his early thirties. During the 1960s Hoban and his wife, Lillian, worked at a prodigious rate, producing as many as six books in a single year—many inspired by life with their own children—including six stories about Frances the badger, The Little Brute Family, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and The Sorely Trying Day (published by the New York Review Children’s Collection). Among Hoban’s novels for adults are Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker, The Bat Tattoo, and My Tango with Barbara Strozzi. He lived in London from 1968 until his death in December 2011.
Ed Park is a founding editor of The Believer and a former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement and the Poetry Foundation. His debut novel, Personal Days, was published in 2008 and was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is currently an editor at Amazon Publishing and teaches at the Columbia University Writing Program. He lives in New York City. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I picked this book up on a whim.
Jane Eyre
In short, this is a story about a midlife resurrection, and it is told with supreme finesse in all the particularity of the two principal protagonists.
John Mccarthy
And trusting what you can't rationalize might be a viable way of being in the world.
Stanley Crowe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jane Eyre on October 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up on a whim. It was published in 1975 and is structured simply, with alternating diary entries from the whimsical souls of William G and Neara H, bookseller and children's author respectively. These are two people trapped within themselves, depressed and isolated, and so inured to their own routines that they are slowly being choked alive.

Until they go to the London aquarium and, separately, become aware of the turtles there, the magnificent turtles that must eventually be set free. Their chance encounter...and growing awareness of one another's intentions...set the stage for a revolutionary act.

This is a quiet, often very funny, slow-paced, but very rewarding book that I enjoyed greatly. It's about two peoples' interior world, and how an exterior action frees them from their own inertia. I absolutely loved it. In a world of hysterically touted, often badly written books, this little gem is an absolute keeper.

Set in London in a different decade (the 70's), I enjoyed reading about the city and the times as well (particularly hysterical is an evening William G. spends at a party held by a "rebirther").

I was sad to turn the last page. No higher praise can you give a good read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Adda on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love to read for the purpose of being transported to another place, time, or reality.
This book did just that and even though it is not always a happy place, or reality, it is always compelling.
I was very sorry for it to end. I wanted and still want to know more of William and Neaera!!!
You can pick this title up, in hardcover form, for just a penny!
It is worth infinitely more!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
Is it coincidence that the two narrators of this book both are drawn to the turtle exhibit at London Zoo and that both are taken with the idea of freeing the turtles? Is it a coincidence that two of the best books of the mid-1970's are about turtles -- this one, and Peter Matthiessen's "Far Tortuga"? Is it a coincidence that the female narrator, in the course of having a meal in a restaurant hears the voice of her co-conspirator and his lover in an adjacent booth discussing early music, only to find that the two people in the booth are people she has never seen before, and then WE find, in the next chapter, that the male narrator and his lover have in fact been discussing early music? And is it coincidence that the male narrator was born in the fishing village where they set the turtles free, a place also meaningful to the female narrator for totally unrelated reason. And is it just dumb luck that turtles know how to navigate the ocean currents to their breeding grounds and to the places where they lay their eggs? "Green turtle very mysterious, mon," says a character in "Far Tortuga," discussing the phenomenon of "turtle eyesight." To which one might respond, on the basis of this book,"People very mysterious, mon" -- sometimes to themselves. And trusting what you can't rationalize might be a viable way of being in the world.

The narrators, William and Neaera, whose narration is organized in alternate chapters, are urban, literate people in mid life who both feel that there lives are going nowhere. Both are bookish; Neaera writes children's books (and has a following), while William works in a bookstore, a job far below his education and abilities. Both have suffered losses and are living alone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With its quick narrative pacing, its unusual story lines filled with ironies, its wounded characters (appealing in their vulnerability), and the novel's inherent charm, this newly reprinted novel from 1975 shows author Russell Hoban in fine fettle, creating a novel which raises big questions while focusing on two quiet characters whose lives are about to change thanks to a series of "coincidences." Until now both characters have spent their middle-aged lives dreaming and second-guessing - while ruing the fact that they have missed their chances for happier, more satisfying lives. In their separate narratives, William G. and Neaera H. share their often similar lives and thoughts with the reader.

William G., the divorced father of two, now works in a bookshop and lives in a small room. As the novel opens, he is at the zoo, where he observes the sea turtles in their "grotty little tank no bigger than my room...soaring, dipping, and curving with flippers like wings, in a glass box of second-hand ocean." Neaera H., a single, 43-year-old writer of children's stories, is sick of writing about Gillian Vole and furry-animal picnics and is thinking of making her next character a predator. Neaera, upon her own visit to the zoo, is also touched by the plight of the sea turtles, and though the two characters do not know each other, they decide independently that they want to free them from captivity (further suggesting their single identity). "The Zoo is a prison for animals who have been sentenced without trial," Neaera remarks. Eventually, with the private collusion of the Head Keeper of the Aquarium, they meet and develop a plan to transport the turtles to the Cornwall coast and to free them, but both are still nervous about this big undertaking.
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