Friday, 3 June 2011

Review: Leviathan

So, I have to preface this with the information that ever since I can remember I've been obsessed with the natural world. Recently my focus has been whales. I based an entire holiday around it (see more of my adventure here)and I wrote a novel of my own all about them (The Water Book.)
Given all of this, I was predisposed to love Leviathan. If you have any kind of magpie mind you'll find something to spark your interest here. It's crammed with astonishing facts about beasts that are already fascinating. There is great harshness, too. The narrative is structured around the history of man's interaction with whales, and it hasn't been nice...
My problem with this book is also it's greatest strength. The magnificence and otherworldliness of whales is astonishingly hard to line into words, but Hoare manages this. One phrase of his describing a humpback as a 'barnacled angel' I thought really lovely.
But he goes too far, and is too personal. Often its frustrating and intrusive and I felt the urge to snap at him to back out of the story. He's less interesting than the whales, unsuprisingly, but doesn't seem aware of this.
And the photos are grainy and black and white. A bit of colour and gloss would have been nice.
Still, though, Leviathan gets 5 stars, because I'm unashamedly biased. And I think everybody should read it. Everybody in the world needs to know more about these largest inhabitants of the world ever, and how mysterious their comings and goings are in the entirely unknown and secret depths and wastes of the ocean. Because they're amazing, and it's time we started being a bit nicer to them...


  1. I bought myself a nice copy of Moby Dick recently. I have a friend who wrote his thesis on it and I've never read it. It's on one of my piles (they go with my lists :) )

  2. Yeah, Moby Dick is an acquired taste, i reckon. It's completely nutty. Good luck!

  3. Hi! Here from the blog hop, but I chanced upon this entry. I am a huge fan of whales! Their sizes tend to terrify me, but I am just astounded by their beauty. I must add this to my reading list. (I love your user pic, by the way.)


  4. Thanks Silsbee! The size of whales is weird thing, though, cos you almost never see the whole thing. It's like looking under a door at the wheels of a bus going past...