What Is The Prize For Winning The World Cup Book Review – In the Heart of the Sea – The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

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Book Review – In the Heart of the Sea – The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

You’ve probably heard of Captain Ahab, The White Whale, “Thar She Blows,” and all that. But Moby Dick was inspired by the events of the whaling ship Essex.

Moby Dick =

  • A huge number of pages – pages filled with whaling minutiae. Beg for mercy
  • Great adventure story, but the percentage of adventure to the descriptions of viscous blubber oil is heavily skewed in favor of the oil.
  • Darling psychoanalyses everywhere
  • Herman Melville’s love letter to Shakespeare. The Bard’s stylistic quirks and bombastic speeches are on every deck of the Pequod.

In the Heart of the Sea much more exciting than MD and cuts straight to the chase. After a brief history of Nantucket and whaling communities in the early 19th century, the crew of the Essex set about whaling their fools’ heads. I say “fool” because the descriptions of what it means to a whale are terrifying. Either these guys had no other options, they were out of their minds, or the money was so good that it was worth rowing up to a whale and jabbing it with a sharp stick.

Quick summary without spoilers you couldn’t get from the dust jacket: the ship is rammed by a whale and sinks. The survivors drift in three small boats for almost 100 days. They do not have enough food or water. It eventually comes down to a draw: the men draw a picture to see who has to die and be eaten by the rest of the gang. They accept this with remarkable stoicism in some of the most memorable and moving scenes I have ever read.

By now you know whether you want to read this book or not, so I’ll talk briefly about the author, and about winners.

Philbrick is an able researcher and a brilliant writer. It’s always a surprise to read a great book, only to learn later how smart the author is. My point: you never feel that Philbrick is too intellectually matched, even though most of us probably are.

Second: whenever a book wins an award, my first reaction is to steer clear. The choices can be driven by politics, marketing, or whether the voting body had their cup of coffee that morning. This is just my personal opinion and taste speaking, but knowing that a book has won an award rarely sends me racing out to buy it.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whale Essex won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2000. They got it right. And if you like this, check out Mayflower by the same author. Very good, but not that exciting.

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