The story of a man's obsession with whales, which takes him on a personal, historical and biographical journey - from his childhood to his fascination with Moby-Dick and his excursions whale-watching.
All his life, Philip Hoare has been obsessed by whales, from the gigantic skeletons in London's Natural History Museum to adult encounters with the wild animals themselves. Whales have a mythical quality - they seem to elide with dark fantasies of sea-serpents and antediluvian monsters that swim in our collective unconscious.
In 'Leviathan', Philip Hoare seeks to locate and identify this obsession. What impelled Melville to write 'Moby-Dick'? After his book in 1851, no one saw whales in quite the same way again.
This book is an investigation into what we know little about - dark, shadowy creatures who swim below the depths, only to surface in a spray of spume. More than the story of the whale, it is also the story of our own obsessions.
Winner of BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction 2009.
'This history of man's dealings with whales is respectful, even mystical.' Daily Mail 'A scintillating, scattershot, blunderbuss of a book. Throughout the book, Hoare's unbridled enthusiasm for his subject is infectious!this thoroughly engaging, rigorously researched and often revelatory book is a joy to read and one which Melville, surely, would have appreciated.' Independent on Sunday 'So compelling and all-encompassing that it cast a spell on me that endured for days after I had done turning its beautifully illustrated pages!This is the book he was born to write, a classic of its kind!What poetry there is here and what a balm for the soul.' Observer 'Enjoyable trawl through the history, literature and lore of whales!As well as being a showcase for descriptive prose of great beauty, "Leviathan" is full of fascinating facts.' Guardian 'An elegant writer with a sharp eye for quirky detail!A lyrical and timely reminder of what we have to lose if we don't change our greedy ways.' Mail on Sunday 'In Hoare's hands, whales are almost limitlessly strange and interesting.' Sunday Times 'Hoare's idiosyncratic mingling of autobiography, anthropology and archaeology has reached its zenith!an enthralling volume. Hoare has the skill and humility to make this work, to him, great art and the Leviathan are both inexplicable, unknowable forces from the deep, wherein lies their wonder.' Daily Telegraph 'Insights and images rise in plumes from almost every page.' Daily Telegraph (Book of the Week) 'With "Leviathan" -- a cultural, personal and natural history of whales and whaling, richly stocked with whale lore and written with admirable intensity and elan -- Hoare might be said to have literalised his interest in surface and depth!Shuttling between inhuman actuality and anthropomorphism, Hoare breaches the surface of his subject in the most profound fashion.' Brian Dillon, Irish Times 'Wonderful illustrated biography of this most magnificent beasts is studded with glittering shards of natural history and social science.' Metro London 'The author's passion for whales is infectious.' Esquire 'Hoare's personal pilgrimage, wandering, reflective, frequently very personal, owes much to WG Sebald, including the device of peppering the text with black and white pictures. Whales have a very intimate and troubled relationship to man, one which this elegiac book does much to illuminate.' Waterstones Books Quarterly 'Tells you everything you need to ever wanted to know about the kings of the ocean.' Wanderlust
Philip Hoare is the author of several books, including 'Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant'; 'Noel Coward: A Biography'; 'Oscar Wilde's Last Stand'; 'Spike Island' and 'England's Lost Eden'. He lives in Hoxton, London, and Southampton, and each summer visits Cape Cod, where, as a member of the Center for Coastal Studies, he undertakes twice-daily expeditions to watch its whales.