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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.
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.
“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’s] work is rigorous, something every serious student of whales--and, more widely conceived, of the natural world--will want to have at hand.”
“Hoare is a splendid writer and a beguiling guide. I found the spell (he) casts powerful and difficult to shake.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“You don’t have to love Moby Dick to love this book. But if you do, THE WHALE is probably one of the most sublime reading experiences you’ll have this year.”
-NPR's All Things Considered
“A love letter to the ‘largest, loudest, oldest’ mammal ever to have existed, Brit biographer Hoare’s 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.”
“Philip Hoare’s 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 subject’s charisma. And the book is even handsome.”
-Mark Kurlansky, author of SALT and COD
“This singular, magnificent book inspires both awe and shame—awe of the whales, shame of the human species that has tried to destroy them. In the end, Hoare’s virtuosic sympathy for his subject makes you believe in the better angels of our nature.”
-Alex Ross, bestselling author of THE REST IS NOISE
“Philip Hoare’s writing is quite untrammelled by convention and opens up astonishing views at every turn.”
“A wonderful read!... Hoare magnificently weaves together his own experiences with stories about literary giants whose writings were inspired by whales—Melville, Hawthone, and Thoreau—and he captures the utter beauty, size, and power of the whale.”
-Lynne Cox, author of GRAYSON
“A love letter to the ‘largest, loudest, oldest’ mammal ever to have existed....Salted with astounding facts...this is an exhilarating valentine.”