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The Porpoise
Cover of The Porpoise
The Porpoise
A Novel
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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...
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...
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  • 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; Shakespeare transformed Appolinus into the swashbuckling Pericles in his play. In The Porpoise, as Angelique grapples with the wreck of her life, trapped 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.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover The Flight

    Maja is thirty-seven weeks pregnant. She would not be allowed on a commercial flight but they have been staying with friends who own a vineyard in Bellevue Champillon and one of the other guests, Viktor, has a Piper PA‑28 Warrior which he intends to fly back to Popham the following morning. His Land Rover is waiting at the airfield and it will be the simplest thing in the world to drop her at the Winchester house en route to the south coast. Her husband, Philippe, does not like placing Maja in the care of another man, let alone one he has met only two days previously, but the jigsaw falls so serendipitously into place that refusal is almost impossible. He will drive to Paris, leave the car at the apartment, take the Eurostar to London and be back in Winchester a day later.

    Besides, Maja enjoys small planes. Travel has become too easy. You fall asleep in Istanbul and wake up in Beijing. She likes to watch the miles tick by—river deltas, irrigation circles, clouds spooling into exis­tence downwind of peaks. She retains a vivid memory of flying over Oslofjord as a girl, island after island, summerhouses, quays, boats, the sun's reflection skimming the water, some revelation which lay just beyond words about the relation between scale and escape and the surface of the earth. In addition, the morning sickness which persisted unnaturally late into her pregnancy has finally faded; she is experi­encing the fabled glow and eager to indulge the freedom that comes with it before she devotes her life to a very small and very demanding human being.

    Philippe's anxiety is justified. Viktor has a Private Pilot's Licence but no Instrument Rating. This wouldn't matter were he travelling with only his nine-year-old son, Rudy. They would head off early and if the weather or other circumstances were to change he could either postpone the flight till the following day or divert to one of his alter­nates if they were already airborne. But Maja wakes late and takes a long breakfast and packs slowly and has mislaid a coral necklace which, she insists, can be couriered to the UK if and when it is found, but which becomes the object of a painstaking and fruitless search of what is a very large house. Lunch has come and gone by the time she is ready to leave. Were Maja less attractive Viktor would feel no com­punction about inconveniencing her but, having been underwhelmed by her performances on screen, he is surprised to find himself in the company of a woman who makes him fifteen again—thick blonde hair, blue, blue eyes, cartoon-pretty, engagingly shambolic, just this side of plump. There is a scar on her cheek, courtesy of a rook which flew in through her bedroom window when she was ten years old. Viktor's infatuation is enjoyable but mildly alarming for a man who is used to having a courtroom, indeed any room, in the palm of his hand.

    The necklace will be found six months later by the gardener, Bruno, tarnished and grubby in a stand of poplars at the very edge of the property where the Beaufours rarely venture, let alone their guests. The only explanation they will be able to find is that some animal, drawn to the bright colour, has dragged it from the poolside, across the grass and into the trees before realising the pointlessness of the effort. They consider sending it to Winchester but cannot find the appropri­ate words for the accompanying letter, so it is laid quietly at the back of a drawer where it remains for many years.

    Viktor rings the airfield to check the weather one final time before they leave the house. The report is not reassuring but he accepts it as a given that they are going to fly. Far...

About the Author-

  • MARK HADDON is the author of the bestselling novels The Red House, A Spot of Bother and the story collection The Pier Falls. His novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and is the basis for the Tony Award-winning play. He is the author of a collection of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, has written and illustrated numerous children's books, and has won awards for both his radio dramas and his television screenplays. He teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and lives in Oxford, England.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 1, 2019
    The latest from Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) is an artfully crafted story of layered lives. Uberwealthy Philippe finds out his wife, Maja, has died in a plane crash, though the baby she was carrying, Angelica, is saved. Philippe’s grief takes a darker, sexual turn, and he begins molesting Angelica when she’s a young girl. Their reclusive existence is eventually intruded upon by a young man named Darius, who arrives with a business proposition for Philippe when Angelica is 16. Angelica sees the young man as her savior, until Philippe attacks him and drives him away; Darius escapes to a ship called the Porpoise. The tale then shifts into mythical territory, transmogrifying Darius into Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and his adventures—mostly mirroring those depicted in the play Pericles, Prince of Tyre, which is at least partially attributed to Shakespeare—take him through ocean voyages and fierce battles. As the novel moves back and forth between present and past, female characters of Pericles’s story are sometimes depicted as distant relatives of Angelica, and her modern-day traumas with Philippe are woven throughout, building both story lines to startling, disparate conclusions. Haddon’s ambitious tale captures the ethos of tragic Shakespearean vibrations and the tangle of lives that magically intersect. The prose is exquisite and elevates this story that blends reality and mythology to great effect.

  • AudioFile Magazine This audiobook is a perfect storm in which the beautiful yet brutal powers of author Mark Haddon and narrator Tim McInnerny collide in an awesome display. The emotional center of the work is a girl whose harsh entry into the world merely foreshadowed an even more disturbing life to come. She escapes that life by way of story, and we soon enter into her own very personal retelling of Shakespeare's PERICLES. If this doesn't sound like a "light beach listen," you're right. But you WILL listen on the beach. And in your car. And on your run. And anywhere and any chance you get. Because once you begin the voyage that is this novel, McInnerny's gale-force narration will drive you on. K.W. Winner of AudoFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

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