From the Whitbread and Los Angeles Times Prize-winning author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a stunningly ambitious, fantastical novel about the theft of female agency by rapacious men and the ways in which archetypal stories can warp history and the present

Mark Haddon's breathtaking novel begins with a harrowing plane crash: Maja, the pregnant wife of the unimaginably wealthy Philippe, is killed, but their daughter Angelique survives. Philippe's obsession with the girl's safety morphs into something sinister and grotesque as she grows into a beautiful teen. A young man named Darius, visiting Philippe with a business proposition, encounters Angelique and intuits their secret -- he decides to rescue her, but the attempt goes awry and he flees England by sea.

This contemporary story mirrors the ancient legend of Antiochus, whose love for the daughter of his dead wife was discovered by the adventurer Appolinus of Tyre. The tale appeared in many forms through the ages; Apollinus becoming the swashbuckling Pericles in Shakespeare's eponymous play. In The Porpoise, as Angelique comes to terms with a life imprisoned on her father's estate, Darius morphs into Pericles, voyaging through a mythic world. In a bravura feat of storytelling, Haddon recounts his many exploits in thrilling fashion, mining the meaning of the old legends while creating parallels with the monstrous modern world Angelique inhabits. The language is rich and gorgeous; the conjured worlds are perfectly imagined; the plot moves forward at a ferocious pace.

But as much as Haddon plays with myth and meaning, his themes speak deeply to the current moment. As profound as it is entertaining, The Porpoise is a major literary achievement by an author whose myriad talents are on full, vivid display.
June 18, 2019
(Read from Aug 6, 2019 to Aug 9, 2019)
Grade: D    (switch to numeric scale)
L/E Ratio: 80% Literature, 20% Entertainment
Tags:
Writing Quality:
Low High
Originality:
Low High

Addictiveness:
Low High
Movie Potential:
Low High

Re-readability:
Low High
Sequel Potential:
Low High
Comment:
Haddon seems determined to distance himself from his own success, forcing his talent towards more experimental projects. Here, unfortunately, the experiment is too disjointed to ever soar. A third of the way through the text, Haddon essentially abandons his modern-day characters to retell a mythical story of Ancient Greece, one which vaguely mirrors the other plot and assumes the reader has done as much research as the author. Also, zombie Shakespeare makes an appearance for some reason.  (+2 votes)