The Porpoise - Mark Haddon

March 13, 2019

5 / 5 Stars

Beautifully different, ethereal and drifting; clever writing indeed.

I do so like it when authors take risks. As far as I'm concerned, these are the books that last - the ones that dare to deliver something thought-provoking, challenging and 'different'. 

The Porpoise is all of those things, and very beautifully written too.


It starts with a plane crash and a death. A baby is left alone with her doting father, who turns out to be far too doting for comfort. A daughter starves herself to exert some form of power, and in doing so, drifts into a world of myth and make-believe. What are stories and what is reality? That's essentially what lies at the heart of this book.

When The Porpoise first dramatically changed direction, I'll admit that it threw me. One moment I'd been reading about a sad little girl and her father, the next, I was suddenly plunged into an ancient myth. However, once adjusted, I liked this format very much. The author was adept at slipping the different narratives over the top of one another, like shifting tectonic plates. The overall effect was one of dreaming, where one scene blends into another.

There are some hard-to-address, dark topics in here too. Child abuse is the most difficult to read about, yet in this book, there is some triumph in how the girl takes control of her own destiny, at the cost of everything else. Although she is undeniably the victim, she rises above her abuser and emerges triumphant. 

In fact, that's something of a theme here - surviving women, and those who fight back against the men that have held them back. One of the brilliant (but highly random) scenes in the middle of a book focuses on a 16th century man, loathed by everyone, who dies - only to find himself surrounded by the women he'd wronged in life. It was an unsettling yet powerful moment.

So yes - to conclude... go and read this. Read this now. And celebrate authors that step firmly outside the box and tread the path untrodden. Because we need more of them, and the only way to get more of them is to support their endeavours!


I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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