I think Herman Melville would have married a freaking whale if that had been possible. Obsessed a bit? Well this book is about obsession so it suits. An important classic, but it doesn’t mean I have to like.
ebook, 684 pages.
Read from June 10 to July 10, 2016.
Alright, this post is late. I’ll admit it. I haven’t quite been able to get back into the swing of things since coming back from a trip home and starting work again. Not much of an excuse but it is what it is.
Man, where to start with this book. I had such high hopes for it and the first couple of chapters I was really excited. However, Melville kept diverting off the main story line and obsessively talked about the intricacies of whales. I wanted to care, but I just couldn’t.
Ishmael is a sailor who fancies a shot a whaling and adventure. He travels over to the Massachusetts and stays in a whaler’s inn in hopes of getting in with a crew. However the inn is short on space and so he must share a bed with a veteran whaler and native named Queequeg. While initially repulsed by the native’s pagan ways and body tattoos, the two men strike up an uncanny friendship. They both aboard the Pequod with the mysterious captain Ahab. Ahab is missing a leg, to which the men and his crew quickly learn was caused by a sperm whale with a white hump. Ahab is obsessed with the whale and is set on revenge. On this journey, men are saved from near death experiences, while some go mad, but the adventure all comes to its climax with the hunt of the infamous white whale.
The best part about this book was the relationship that Ishmael and Queequeg had. The first few chapters about their meeting had me laughing out loud and I thought that I was going to be in for a great read. Sadly, that majority of the book is full of long and distracting chapters about minute details about whales and whale hunting and I felt like I barely got to know these two main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I know why Melville did this, it was because the public knew practically nothing about whales/whale hunting at this time so all of the information he included with his story would have been absolutely riveting for its readers at the time of its first publication. This book also captures a short piece of history of when much of our fuel came from whale blubber. That is why this book is important. But just because it’s important doesn’t mean I have to like it.
All I wanted to read about was what the characters were doing. Every time a chapter about whale trivia came up I felt my eyes glaze over and I quickly forgot where I was in the book and what was going. However, an important theme in this book is obsession so it suits that Melville is just as mad about whales as Ahab. The ending was pretty epic, I will admit that but I’m not sure it was worth the few hundred pages I had to read to get to it.
Overall I felt I would have had more enjoyment reading an abridged version of this book (and I never say that). The writing is good and the plot promises much, but its hard to get past the long essays in between. I would still recommend this book to anyone who loves classics and especially for those who love whales are interested in the history of whale hunting.