In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is pure non-fiction. It reads somewhere in between a list of facts and a story. In fact, the last third of the book is exactly that, a huge list with graphics.
The book lacks fully developed characters, because the author avoided conjecture unless he identified the statements as his own opinion. All the descriptions of the people were carefully documented and the dialogue was copied from writings by the survivors, with tags like Nickerson remembered or Chase was, in his own words.” Discussions that are critical to the story, such as the decision about the direction to sail, were explained rather than shown.
The book contains constant references to other events such as Captain Bligh's sail after the mutiny on The Bounty and [Ernest] Shackleton's feat of delivering all twenty-seven men of his Antarctic expedition to safety.... There are also many references to Melville's Moby Dick throughout the book because that novel was inspired by the facts of this tragedy.
In the Praise for... section, there is a quote from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that says “the author takes the reader and makes him part of the crew.” I disagree with that, but I do believe this would be a good read for people who enjoy non-fiction, survivor stories.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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