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Showing 1-10 of 28 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 48 reviews
on April 11, 2010
I bought this book because it covered the whaling industry from a broad perspective. Some reviewers have complained that it is not a biology textbook about whales. This is true. What it is a very literary, easy to read, yet fact filled musing about the whole subject of whales and whaling. There is not any overly emotional, hand wringing or politicization of the subject, yet the author does not shrink from problematic areas such as the of using intelligent living beings as a source of renewable energy, margarine or lipstick and corsets. Yet humans can find good use for any thing that is present in large quantities. Unfortunately for whales, they got caught in human's leviathan industrialization.

The great thing about this book is that it also seamlessly blends in so many strands of thought, such as the love and awe of the sea, of ships and sailors, of the fishing industry, of American and World history and always in the background is Moby Dick, Ishmael, Melville, Captain Ahab, and other iconic characters and locations. I have never read the Moby Dick, but you don't have to if you have any appreciation for any the world of the sea.
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on March 16, 2017
OOPS--see review for Hoare's Sea Inside, I mixed them up
The Whale is a wonderful history of whaling industry, Melville, and New England in the 19th century.
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on July 23, 2011
Despite its title, this is not a book strictly about whales, but rather a hodge-podge of myriad information on almost everything related to whales, whaling, Moby Dick and its author.

The structure of the book is quite intricate, with different subjects often intertwined, and the same subject sometimes scattered along different parts of the book, what I found sometimes annoying. Mr. Hoare, in addition to cetaceans, is obsessed with Melville's masterpiece; Ishmael is a constant companion, quoted often to illustrate the book's meanderings through whales' biology, anatomy, behavior and unhappy interplay with mankind. Sperm whales are, as would be expected, looked at in more detail. Even then a lot is left unexplained; for obvious reasons leviathans are not easily observed in their natural environment and most of our knowledge about them comes merely from the observation of corpses. Whales in general are mysterious beasts, but sperm whales even more so: the largest toothed animals, mammals' ablest divers, hunters of squids of unfathomable size, owners of surreptitious echolocation powers, and so on.

Mr. Hoare being a biographer, a short one of Herman Melville is provided, revolving around Moby Dick, of course. It goes through his seafaring experience in the Acushnet and the several literary works derived from it, his acquaintance with Hawthorne - to whom Moby Dick is dedicated - and their friendship up to Melville's death.

The history of modern whaling is covered more extensively than whales themselves. Focusing mainly on America and Britain, whaling industry is described since its craddle in Nantucket in the 17th century. So is the evolution of the techniques used to hunt, process and conserve their prey. It's a fascinating and sad history, in which the astonishing array of uses devised along the centuries for cetaceans' carcasses are described - from the pre-electricity need of oil for ilumination up to the use of spermaceti-derived lubricants in spaceships. Chapters relating the slaughtering along the 20th century, with the use of the modern weaponry devised to this end - explosive harpoons, huge factory-ships, helicopters and airplanes to spot the catch among them - are particularly nauseating. The saddest part of it is that the killing only resumed when the cetacean population had been depleted to a level that turned its exploitation economically unviable. According to a scientist quoted in the book, "Conservation had failed mainly because whales belonged to no one and it was no one's direct interest to look after them."

I think that some editing, reducing descriptions of whaling museums and stranded whales, for example, would benefit "The Whale". The narrative of Thoreau's contacts with whales also seems irrelevant in the book's context. I lacked, on the other hand, a more substantial approach to pre-modern whaling.

If you are a Mody Dick fan, I highly recommend this book. If your interest lies only in flesh-and-bone whales though, not so much so.
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on January 25, 2015
Too much Melville (although I did like Moby Dick), but this is a non-scientist 'rummaging' of fact and fiction, and of whaling, that turns out to be well worth one's read. More than anything this is a great supplement to more in-depth, scholarly works. But, how in the world is the largest animal (ever) still roaming the seas and we know so little. From behavior to movements to marine habitat to even their anatomy and physiology. To the extent we propose military soundings without fully understandings impacts. One day we will realize, perhaps too late, to what extent our own security relies on the integrity of the natural world.
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on March 2, 2014
This work, while revealing much about whales, their history and various curiosities has a rambling style. It is more like a footnote to Herman Melville and his classic novel Moby Dick. The author is captivated by Melville and this book is a testament to that work rather than a work dedicated to the whale.
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on March 10, 2017
Wife's .
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on July 12, 2015
A interesting book about the history of the interaction between human and whale. Literature, research, and personal experience inform the content. At times it can be hard to tell where the narrative is going (in a manner reminiscent of Moby Dick) but it is full of fascinating details and anecdotes.
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on May 5, 2014
I am interested in whales and the history surrounding them. I learned a great deal reading this book. I share the anger of the author and appreciate his point of view. It is incredible that any whales exist today. Also appreciated the information about Herman Melville and his book, "Moby Dick."
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on September 26, 2012
The fact that I read this entire book while taking a course on Moby-Dick -- and it was not on the reading list -- is a testament not to my own reading interests, but to Hoare's masterful and engaging prose. He weaves extensive quotes about whaling, many from Melville, with personal anecdotes and reflections. Though he covered a wide range of territory, from the history of hunting whales to contemporary whale-watching expeditions, he handles each angle with grace and beautiful prose.
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on April 13, 2011
I came across this book by chance in a bookstore. I took it out from the library and, after reading it, wanted my own copy for home. There are many references to early writings about whales and to MOBY-DICK, including the sources Melville researched before writing. The author also writes extensively about the history of whaling around the world, including why whalers had to travel further and further from home as they overkilled the whales near their own shores until many species are near extinction. Many photographs and copies of old illustrations.
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