TW: Sexual abuse and incest.
Full disclosure, I don’t really understand what happened in this book, so here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world. When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail… So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.
The big negative to The Porpoise is that, having finished it, I don’t actually know what I read. The plot is based on the Greek legend of Apollonius and his exposure of a king who falls in love with his own daughter after the death of his wife, and the incestuous relationship that follows. This isn’t a story I was familiar with, but feels pretty standard for Greek mythology. However, the narrative of The Porpoise isn’t as straightforward as that. The book opens with the story of Philippe, whose wife is killed in a plane accident, developing a deeply unhealthy obsession with his daughter, Angelica – the sole survivor of the crash. Some years later, a young man makes an attempt to rescue Angelica, fails, and escapes on board The Porpoise. At this point, the book expands into a new storyline following the tale of Pericles. As if this wasn’t enough, another thread is introduced with Shakespeare, so the book ends up covering at least three stories at once and I never managed to quite work out where they all linked up.
Despite my lack of comprehension, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you take the different threads as separate stories, you can just enjoy them for what they are, which is beautifully written and quite exciting stories of familial abuse, escape and adventure.
The Porpoise is a unique and engaging novel, highly entertaining despite the uncomfortable subject matter. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but it is guaranteed to be a good read for anyone who can properly get to grips with the narrative style and multilayered plot.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.