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The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea Paperback – February 8, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
My only real complaint was that I would have liked even more information about the whales themselves, their lives and their habits, and a little less about the cruelty and utter destruction brought upon them by mankind. Although, this book managed to give a balanced look into whaling, and did not come off as the Sea Shepard's, or another eco-terrorist group's, manual. There certainly were a lot of facts that any eco-group could use, however. In handling this sensitive topic of history, this author certainly did a wonderfully detailed job. Well-written (despite a few rather abrupt transitions), and well-researched, the photos and drawings added a lot to this good, but on the whole, rather depressing look into the history of humanity's relationship with the whale.
Nevertheless, in his mid-20s he determined to learn to swim. "In the chilly East End pool, built between the wars, I discovered that the water could bear up my body. I realized what I had been missing; the buoyancy of myself."
He still wasn't ready to obsess about the whale for our benefit; he still found his attention wandering from the density of Herman Melville's Moby Dick despite repeated attempts. It wasn't until his first visit to New England and his first sight of a finback on a whale watch out of Provincetown that Hoare was hooked by the majesty of Leviathan.
He dove into Moby-Dick with new eyes and prepared to follow the whale himself, guided by Melville and his own curiosity. "Now, as I came to it again, I saw that Moby Dick is a book made mythic by the whale, as much as it made a myth of the whale in turn."
Hoare muses on Moby Dick's abject failure to stir the collective imagination during Melville's lifetime and the classic status it has since achieved. "Each time I read it, it is as if I am reading it for the first time....Every day I am reminded that it is part of our collective imagination; from newspaper leaders that evoke Ahab in the pursuit of the war on terror, to the ubiquitous chain of coffee shops named after the Pequod's first mate, Starbuck..."
A biographer at heart, Hoare (Noel Coward, Wilde's Last Stand) uses Melville's life as a springboard into 19th century whaling. Coming from a solidly middle class background of revolutionary heroes, Indian fighters and seafarers, Melville ran away to sea at 19.Read more ›
"The Whale" is NOT a scientific treatise on whales yet there are enough facts and details about whales to satisfy just about any level of whale enthusiast and the many illustrations are just an added bonus.
Philip Hoare deeply admires and respects whales and perhaps is even obsessed with them. It is this passion for his subject that gives the book its "hook" as it literally grabs you and pulls you along for the ride.
Hoare tries very hard to seperate fact from fiction as it pertains to our knowledge of whales. He uses Herman Melville's classic "Moby Dick" as a stepping stone to do this. By referencing passages from the book as well as other historical journals and events that Melville might have used to source his story Hoare provides a dramatic history of the whale, the whaling industry and the tenuous relationship that whales and men have had over the past 400+ years! This provides some of the best and most riveting writing in the book. "You are there" as a sailor yells "there she blows" and the crew goes into action to chase and catch the whale.
But throughout Hoare provides specific and fascinating details about each species of whale that he introduces: from Narwhals, Belugas, Bowheads to the grandaddy of them all... the Sperm whale! Hoare tells of why whales were so in demand during the 18th and 19th century and why men would travel to the four corners of the earth risking death to catch them and bring home the spoils while he also tells of the naturalists and the scientists who made it their life's work to go on expeditions to study whales and their world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's a shame when a book with potential for interest is so self-consciously written that the reader is distracted from the content by the excesses of the text. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Susan Nielsen
I had bought this as an introductory book on whales to read during a cruise. Well-written, informative and profoundly thoughtful, it far exceeded my expectations. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ken Kardash
Interesting mix of modernization, history and classic literature....Published 12 months ago by Marryam
A interesting book about the history of the interaction between human and whale. Literature, research, and personal experience inform the content. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Wayne Symes
I love this book. Easy to see why it won awards. Beautifully written and researched with many references to my beloved Moby Dick plus other historical references. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dusty Billings
I like this book well enough to have read it twice. It is oddly engrossing. Let's start with the fact that it is not in the strict sense a book about whales. Read morePublished 16 months ago by lyndonbrecht