the next good book

The Porpoise

By Mark Haddon


294 pages

What’s it about? This book is based on the ancient story of Antiochus.  Mark Haddon has chosen to use the story in a very different way.  The book begins in the present day with a plane crash.  A very pregnant Maja is traveling on the plane and is gravely injured in an accident. Maja is kept alive just along enough to give birth to a young girl.  Philippe (Maja’s wealthy and powerful husband) is grief stricken.  As the girl grows older Philippe seems to view his daughter, Angelica, as an object meant for his pleasure.  Much like in the earlier story of Antiochus, an adventurer comes along and discovers Philippe’s secret.  Just when we are hooked on this story (about page 80) we are introduced to new characters in a similar story- but this story is happening in ancient times.  William Shakespeare once reimagined the story of Antiochus in a play he wrote.  In Shakespeare’s play Pericles is the young adventurer who discovers the secret.  So now in Mark Haddon’s story we meet a new Pericles.  Sound confusing?  Wait until Mark Haddon throws in the character of William Shakespeare…What did it make me think about? I thought about how much life has changed since we believed in mythology- and how much it has stayed the same.    Also, how privilege has always had the ability to shelter the powerful from the consequences of their own actions.  So- some really great themes.  That Mark Haddon brings this all together is a testament to his skill as a writer! Should I read it? This book was really disjointed so I was surprised at how much I still liked it. The first 80 pages went by quickly and I was sorry to leave that storyline.  However, I quickly became interested in story number two.  I could have done without the William Shakespeare part- but what do I know?  This book is ambitious and will be liked by some and probably hated by others.  I am firmly in the favorable category.

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