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Leviathan Hardcover – 1 Sep 2008

35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (1 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007230133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007230136
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 4.4 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 493,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Hoare's is the author of several books, including 'Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant'; 'Noel Coward'; 'Oscar Wilde's Last Stand'; 'Spike Island'; 'England's Lost Eden'; and 'Leviathan, or, The Whale', winner of the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. He lives in Southampton.

Product Description

Review

Reviews for Leviathan:

‘A wonderfully idiosyncratic book, passionate zoology counter-pointed with the glories of Moby-Dick…This is a deep book about the deep: an inspiring book about inspirational beings…If you can’t board a ship this week, read this book.’ Simon Barnes, The Times

‘Successful as Hoare’s book is in expanding and its encyclopaedic sources, it also has a personal thread, detailing his own fascination with whales. The author describes his experiences swimming with sperm whales off the Azores, and his prose rises admirably to the demands of the encounter.’ The Financial Times

‘As well as being a showcase for descriptive prose of great beauty, Leviathan is full of fascinating facts…These are tough times for whales, but Hoare brings to light an endangered world of cetacean savoir vivre that mocks our best efforts to be happy.’ The Guardian

‘A celebratory study of the gentle giants that have for so long gripped the human imagination…This book is a lyrical and timely reminder of what we have to lose if we don’t change our greedy ways.’ The Mail on Sunday

‘Anyone who loves the sea will love this book…a Sebalesque triumph, in which the author meditates on his obsession with whales…it is one of those books into which you can dip at random and find something interesting.’ The Sunday Telegraph

‘Philip Hoare’s wonderfully illustrated biography is studded with glittering shards of natural history and social science but it’s also an exploration of the potent place whales occupy in the collective imagination.’ Metro

‘A superb book…This is the book [Phillip Hoare] was born to write, a classic of its kind.’ Rachel Cooke, The Observer

‘…studded with generous illustrations and poetic details…In Hoare’s hands whales are almost limitlessly strange and interesting.’ Bee Wilson, Sunday Times

Review

'Philip Hoare has long been acclaimed as a brilliantly unconventional writer...This is the book he was born to write'

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
This isn't my usual kind of reading - as much as I like whales I wouldn't say I was so fascinated by them as to want to read an entire book on them - and yet this had me spellbound. Philip Hoare has a wonderful, poetic way of writing, and his own love for and fascination with whales come over with every word. This isn't just a scientific book about whales; it's an exploration of the whale in human history, religion, literature. He talks about Melville's Moby-Dick as much as whaling and the whale itself, and it just works. It's an incredibly moving read at times too, particularly when he talks about what man has done to the whale. This is a wonderful book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jim VINE VOICE on 19 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whales exert a huge presence in modern consciousness - `Save the Whale' has been a clarion call of the environmental movement for as long as I remember - and yet comparatively little is known about them. Indeed only recently have accurate anatomical drawings been made, and for years scientists and natural historians were reliant on guesswork.

This is Philip Hoare's history of his own fascination with whales. It starts with his childhood encounters with life size replicas at London's Natural History Museum and ends with his adult encounters, a stunning and poignant account of swimming with sperm whales in the Azores. Throughout he mixes literary criticism (invariably Herman Melville features heavily), social, cultural and natural history - much, alas, until recently bloody and driven by man's profit motive rather than his passion for nature - with his own profoundly moving experiences of these great beasts.

It is in so many ways a perfect book: accessible, evocative, brilliantly written, expertly portioned between Hoare and the great Leviathons (and never, as so many of these sort of books are, self indulgent) and superbly illustrated; a worthy winner of this year's Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kirsty Hall on 15 July 2009
Format: Paperback
This book absolutely blew me away.

I'm a sucker for books that meander through different areas of human knowledge and Leviathan does this with almost effortless aplomb. Hoare delves into literature, history, science, anecdote, anthropology and art to explore our long and often difficult relationship with whales. Hoare manages to dive between poetic lyrical writing and the harshest of scientific facts with only an occasional misstep.

His writing just soars - I was alternatively speechless with wonder, livid with anger, enraptured with awe and on several occasions weeping with shame at how we've treated and continue to treat whales.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
In "Leviathan", Hoare attempts a sort of "meta-Moby-Dick". Taking Melville's controversial giant of a book as his starting point, he weaves around it a tapestry of fact, myth and personal experience which both illuminates the novel and, after a time, obscures our view of it. One thing this book did, was make me want to read Melville's novel again.

If you are a fan of Moby-Dick, you had probably better read this book, even if at times you find it irritating, for it contains much that you will find adds to your appreciation. Whether you love or hate Hoare's style will depend a lot on personal taste. He, clearly, is a fan of Melville, and he attempts to "channel" the great author's discursive, autobiographical manner. Unfortunately, the pseudo-biblical language and rather portentious tone which we accept in mid-nineteenth century Melville sits awkwardly on a modern author and after a while what at first seems "atmospheric" becomes wearisome.

If you have tried Moby-Dick and given up on it, don't think this book is some "ripping yarns"-style alternative. What you see as faults in Melville will appear as crimes in Hoare. Where Melville is over-leisurely, you will find Hoare long-winded. And so on.

If you simply want a good book about whales, you may still enjoy it. This is not, however, an organised survey of cetaceans, their biology, ecology and conservation; neither is it a cogent and insightful history of the whaling industry. Other reviewers have commented on the photos. There is a trend amongst academic and semi-academic writers at the moment to use small, rather fuzzy black and white illustrations inset in the text, more to stimulate the imagination than to make things clear. W.G.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bigdaddy on 3 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
You don't have to be obsessed with Moby Dick to love this book, but it doesn't hurt. Hoare's extraordinary, complex, respectful, fearful, loving relationship with the largest mammals on the planet takes him back to the history of whaling, to a time when entire cities were lit by whale oil; to places far below the surface of the ocean, where giant whales battle with three hundred foot squid. It's a magical journey, heartbreaking in terms of man's exploitation of these beautiful creatures. Doubt it will sell well in Japan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ian Richardson on 2 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philip Hoare's wonderful book is a meandering meditation on the great cetaceans and on mankind's troubled relationship with these extraordinary creatures. It rambles through history, philosophy and biology with a marvellous lack of apparent structure; being a big baggy animal with unexpected corners at every turn of the page. (Very suitable, given its subject). There is a long and fascinating section on the genesis of Melville's "Moby Dick" and intimate portraits of the major characters and whaling centres of North America and Europe. A chilling survey of the carnage wreaked on the great Rorquals during the latter phase of the 20th Century is balanced by a moving account of Hoare's own personal encounters with whales.
Such was my enthusiasm for the book and my wish to pass on copies to friends that what I needed (I thought) was another copy in which the ropey pictures of the paperback edition are replaced with something much better. Of course, I thought to myself, these will surely be found in the original hardback edition? Wrong.

So, in short, although you should indeed get a copy of this marvellous book; you will be perfectly happy with the paperback. The latter is, in every respect - right down to the pagination and poorly reproduced photographs, identical to the hardback. So you do NOT need to shell out your hard-earned sponduliks for this one.

On the other hand, my misplaced assumptions are hardly the fault of Braydon Books, who supplied exactly what I had ordered with exemplary alacrity and decent (if flimsy) packaging.
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