Review: Moby Dick – Herman Melville

MobyDickI genuinely don’t know where to start with this book. It’s just… boggling. Truly this is a masterpiece. While it was a slog, while it was hard to get through at times it was so completely worth it. The prose in this book is just mind-blowing to the point that I actually read it more slowly, reread things, I just wanted to consume it. I know that I really cannot do it justice in a review so instead I’m going to focus in on little bits rather than trying to just go through everything. It’s just so vast it would genuinely be hellish to try and cover everything!

Firstly, I need to thank the wonderful Choncey Boddington (who can be found here and here. Seriously, check her out, she’s wonderful.) because without her review of this book I really would never have even dared to pick this up. Really. Her review of Moby Dick was just so passionate that I decided that I needed it in my life. So I put it in my life and I’m very grateful to her.

Now, on to the actual review, which is a lengthy one.

This book just says so much about life. Ultimately, he links whaling back to the human psyche and with it gets in to the depths of humans souls to show that deep down inside, regardless of our differences, we all run on the same desires and also the same spirit. It can be said that Moby Dick as a character is a metaphor; that thing that all people chase but it’s how we chase it that sets us apart as individuals. How Melville got so deep in to the soul by talking about a whale is just astounding. It just says so much and so little all at once, it’s all subtext that you extract and it’s amazing.

What also blew me away about this is the intimate knowledge that he had of whales. I mean, he knew all of this, he didn’t have Wikipedia at his fingertips he actually had to go to libraries and research and understand all of this and that’s just completely astounding if I’m honest. Some of the chapters which dealt with whale anatomy and the differences between species were really interesting too; it’s a fiction book but it’s educational with it (okay, it’s a little dated, but I went away and I googled things and googled the whales and learnt the differences for myself. Again, it’s amazing that Melville knew all of that, he didn’t have google-fu!)

A lot of reviewers of this book said they had trouble with the language and while that is partly true, I found it was quite easy to pick up. There is a glossary in the back for specific terms but generally, the style and flow of language is in keeping with the period. Having read Dickens last month this is just as accessible in terms of language and story! It does get a little confusing but truthfully it is a book that I couldn’t sit and read for an extended period of time, a couple of chapters was more than enough before I had to take a step back and focus on something else for a while!

Also, as with Dickens it’s first-person narration which can be a bit of a pain. It was done well to an extent, but sometimes first person narration has a tendency to get a bit of ‘tunnel vision’ and be a little frustrating as a reader. Once I got through that wall I was fine, but it is something to be aware of when you go in to it. On the whole though, characters were well developed. I also found that the flip between first person narration to the occasional ‘non fiction’ type chapter or even a chapter where it’s laid out like a script which was just something to break up monotony.

The climax of this book is one that can only be compared to The Odyssey. The tension and atmosphere created were just astounding and by this point I just could not stop reading. I didn’t want to put the book down, I just wanted to know what happened. The ending was just… boom. Boom. Seriously just boom. I think it was an inevitable way for the book to go, it would have been difficult to have been able to justify it happening any other way. There were heavy tones of fate and myth and legend leading up to it and I think it actually made the ending all the more powerful.

Ultimately this is deserving of a 5/5 rating. Seriously. It is by no means a light book, it is hard to follow at parts but some patience and determination and you’re really rewarded with one of the most astounding books I’ve ever read. Definitely near the top of my ‘favourite classics’ list and one that I will reread in the future! Ultimately, this book taught me that sometimes we don’t get the whale, but that’s okay, sometimes not getting the whale is the best thing that happens to us.