Book Club: In The Heart of the Sea

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Author: Nathaniel Philbrick
ISBN: 978-0-00-812683-4
RRP: $22.99

I feel like I should start this with some background. I had read a little about the book but wasn’t really familiar with what I was getting myself into. What I did read was enough to intrigue me, but not prepare me.

In The Heart of the Sea is a TRUE STORY, it is also the story that inspired Moby Dick. I feel that I need to mention here that I haven’t read Moby Dick, I know it was about a whale but that’s about it. It’s a classic that I always thought I should read but never quite got around to.

I thought this was a new book but it’s just a new edition. First published in 2000 In The Heart of the Sea is now being made into a major motion picture starring Chris Hemsworth and this is the new edition. I want to say the movie tie in release but I’m not sure.

This book was written long after the story took place so as well as the events as they took place we read about all of the research that has gone into the book, all of the findings that have been made in the years since about the events and their effects on the people.

In The Heart of the Sea is the incredible tale of the sinking of the whaleship Essex from Nantucket but it is also an extensive study of Nantucket and of whaling in the early 19th Century.

Nantucket is a place I am familiar with, though it’s history was completely new to me. I know of it through books set in the trendy seaside tourist island, I did not know of it’s whaling history. Whaling, too, is something I knew of but nothing substantial about. I know that within my lifetime people have lobbied to have it stopped but that was about it.

In The Heart of the Sea has given me a working knowledge of 19th Century whaling and I feel that it’s barbaric, there were whaling scenes that turned my stomach. It was certainly eye opening and education is never a bad thing, I can certainly understand the lobbying to have whaling stopped.

in the heart of the sea

I am struggling a little with what I want to say because I still haven’t fully processed it. Non-fiction is not usually my thing and my relationship with history is sketchy at best. This was written to follow the timeline of the Essex voyage though peppered with newer information and research. The writing style was well done, the way newer information was integrated with the account of the Essex voyage was easy to follow and always relevant.

This is where I am going to have real trouble vocalising because I found the book dragged and it was quite heavy reading. Yet I can’t really say that the pacing was off or slow because these poor whalemen was stranded at sea for 93 days and not a lot happens, I’m sure they felt it dragged a lot more than I did.

I think the movie will be fantastic and I don’t think it will drag because it will need to be condensed into a couple of hours. Having said all of that I think this was a well researched and well written book that Philbrick was clearly passionate about.

The way that Melville and Moby Dick are woven into In The Heart of the Sea tells the story of how Moby Dick was inspired to give a little insight into that book as well. I am definitely considering adding Moby Dick to my list of books to read.

I will be interested to hear other’s thoughts on this one, and especially from those who have read Moby Dick. An engrossing and educational read that captivated me even when I felt that I was working hard to make progress.

Nathaniel Philbrick is on Facebook and his Website.

In The Heart of the Sea is available from Harper Collins, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

30 of our lucky readers will also be reading In The Heart of the Sea so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

34 thoughts on “Book Club: In The Heart of the Sea

  1. Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick while well researched was a slow burn for me, the first few chapters being a real struggle. Perhaps in knowing the story of Moby Dick I was too eager to meet the whale who sunk the ship, The Essex.
    As expected though the action really heated up once the sailors met the whale and I found the story flowed and became a real page turner. I gained a lot of knowledge about the times, the sea, ships, cannibalism, and the barbaric practice of whaling. I’m glad I persevered, thanks for the opportunity.

  2. I absolutely loved the opportunity to read this book. I first fell in love with the storyline of Moby Dick while reading “Ahab’s Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer”. I agree with other reviewers that the book was quite hard to get into initially and did take me a few go’s. But I am glad that I persevered as even though it was a tough read with a lot of facts and information it really does give as accurate an account as possible of The Essex and gives you an appreciation of what whalers of the times went through.

    At times though the accounts were a bit hard reading with detailed descriptions of what the sailors went through.

    Again thank you for the opportunity to read the book!

  3. When I saw the opportunity to review this book I was extremely excited to be chosen. The movie had just been released and I was excited about reading it before I watched it.
    Then I started reading it….this was a very difficult book to understand and get into and I almost gave up multiple times. The only reason I continued to read was because of this review.
    I’m so glad I pushed through because it got really great towards the end. These books really interest me…this one very hard to read but I’m glad I finished it.

    Thank you for letting me read this and review.

  4. i was so glad when i was lucky enough to receive this as I wanted to see the movie,as i love whales.
    I found it a bit hard to get into at first and it drag on a bit in places, they the mateship and descriptions of the environment they were in was well written.Their survival after the whale hit was remarkable, they experienced so much hardship,it was hard not feel for them.
    I would recommend, push through it and you will get a reward read

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