Thanks for joining us today at The Boss Book Club!
The Boss Book Club has been in hiatus over the past few months, but a lot of reading has been done in that time. To celebrate the return, over the next five days will be five book reviews- to catch up on what we’ve missed!
Today, the classic American novel Moby Dick.
I’ve attempted to read Moby Dick approximately 4 times over the past five years, each time giving up after the first 50 pages, overwhelmed by the old-style language or the sheer size of the thing. This time I persisted and pushed on, and I’m very grateful I did.
If you’re yet to read the classic but have been tempted to, it’s certainly worth your time. Written by Herman Melville in 1851, the story gives you an immersive look at the life of a whaleman in the 1800s, where great ships would head out to find and slaughter the sperm whale in order to collect and harvest the oil- which was predominantly used to light lamps across the country.
The story is told in first person narrative by Ishmael, a somewhat experienced seaman (don’t you giggle) but a first time whaler. This book shows you the perils and dangers of whaling from his point of view, as well as captures the sense of excitement and comradery that goes along with voyages that could last years.
The other central character is that of Ahab, the ship’s captain, a psychologically tormented man, whose motives in the voyage are entirely centred around the capture of one particular whale- the legendary Moby Dick.
There are many reasons why this book has been given its rightful status as a classic. For me, it shows me everything there is to know about what the whaling life was like. Herman explains everything about the experience in amazing detail, from what the ships were like, to the customs and traditions shipmen had, to the type of equipment they used- even how they would rig and cut the whale. It shows me a life I would never have known about- being a landlubber myself. It does, however, go into lengthy details of what a whale looks like, which I’m sure in its time would have been wonderfully informative, but can be a little dry in the reading now.
The other thoroughly enjoyable element of this book is Ahab, the dark, brooding Captain, and the book explores many religious, philosophical and psychological themes regarding his and Ishmael’s journey as characters.
Many schools and Universities over the years have included this book on the read list as the book is rich in religious and social metaphors and analogies. It reflects the development of America and man’s relationship with himself and God. You can read as much or as little into this novel as you like and I’m sure repeat readings would offer something new each time.
On a final note, if like me you struggle somewhat to get through classic novels, I have a good tip. Each time you start a reading session, start with one chapter of a classic, followed by whatever other novel you like. I found this helped me focus on the chapter I was reading, and after you’re half way through you’ll find it much easier to plough through and finish it!
Happy Reading everyone, see you tomorrow for a review of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.