Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book 29 of 2012: In The Heart Of The Sea

My twenty-ninth book of the year was the eighth in a set of ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ books that I got last year. I’ve had mixed views of these books so far. Some have just been not the sort of book I normally choose to read and so I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them, others haven’t been my sort of thing at all while one was a reread which I enjoyed just as much the second time as I did the first. I’d been half looking forward to In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick since reading The Perfect Storm several weeks earlier.

It tells the story of events which inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a whaling ship, the Essex, out of Nantucket which was attacked by a massive whale. The men then began a journey back across the ocean in three of their little whaling boats, eventually becoming separated and having to deal with dehydration, starvation and then cannibalism. It’s quite a shocking story, almost unbelievable, I couldn’t have imagined that anyone could survive so long at sea the way that they did. I really did enjoy reading it though.

It was very cleverly written. Although it began at the end, so to speak, it wasn’t immediately obvious who the survivors would be. In fact, as at that point you didn’t know that they began the journey in three whaling boats and then became separated I just assumed that the survivors described at the beginning would be the only ones who survived the journey.

My copy has two glossy sections inside with photographs of artefacts from the Essex, some of the men question as well as paintings and photos of the boat and Nantucket. It’s a shame that there weren’t more photos available of the men who survived the disaster. There were also maps and diagrams in the book as well, the maps were especially well positioned so that they didn’t give away future events that the book hadn’t reached yet.

One of my only complaints about the book was that it ended with some really extensive notes. The book itself was obviously really well researched with loads of information coming from modern experts in the subjects dealt with, as well as quotes from people of the period. The notes section gave extra information about where this earlier information had come from. It was right at the end of the book and then separated down into the individual chapters it was relating to, unfortunately at times it wasn’t immediately clear what the reference in the notes was referring to as by that time you’d finished the book. I didn’t realise it was there until towards the end otherwise I might have flicked back and forth through the book.

Perhaps a better way of doing this would have been through the use of footnotes or perhaps through simply printing the notes at the end of each chapter. They were very interesting but they were also interspersed with ‘thank you’s which could have been held back for the acknowledgements section.

One aspect of this set of books that I do really like is the little ‘Bonus Features’ section at the very end of the book. It normally includes a bit of information about the author or an interview, a little essay about the subject, quotes, books that might be of interest, websites that link to the subject in some way, as well as a list of other books available in the series (obviously I already have many of these though there are a couple which weren’t included so I may have to keep my eyes open for them). I was particularly interested to see that Nathaniel Philbrick has written quite a few other books (mostly with a nautical theme) and I’m thinking that I might like to look out for a copy of Sea of Glory having enjoyed the style of In The Heart Of The Sea so much.

No longer going backward, the Essex was now going down. The whale, having humbled its strange adversary, disengaged itself from the shattered timbers of the copper-sheathed hull and swam off to leeward, never to be seen again.
Page 83

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)