Day 1046: The Whale: A Love Story

Cover for The WhaleIt seems as if I’ve read several novels lately where Herman Melville is a character or Moby Dick a theme. Such is the case with The Whale, a story about the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The novel begins with a literary outing. Melville is invited along with Oliver Wendell Holmes and others by Melville’s editor while Melville is vacationing in the Berkshires. The reclusive writer Hawthorne is also of the party, and Melville falls in love with him at first sight.

Melville is also dealing with Moby Dick. He is supposed to be nearly finished with it, but he is unsatisfied with the ending. His philosophical and literary discussions with Hawthorne inspire him to massive rewrites. In a way, Ahab’s pursuit of the whale represents Melville’s pursuit of a meaningful relationship with Hawthorne.

For, there is a mutual spark, but as a friend, Jeannie Field, tells Melville, Hawthorne is a Puritan. While Melville tries to get Hawthorne not to deny his true feelings, Hawthorne is determined to avoid an entanglement. Yet, he gives Melville a certain amount of encouragement.

Although I enjoyed this novel very much, I felt it was a little too modern in this regard. I couldn’t imagine a man in the mid-19th century trying to convince another man not to deny these feelings and being so obvious as Melville was at times. At this time and place, Melville would have been trying to hide it. I also have no idea what basis in reality this story has, although the author cites affectionate letters between the two. I was not sure whether Beauregard was aware that at this time men expressed themselves more affectionately than they do now. It’s fiction, though, which does not require any basis in reality.

Still, with language sometimes echoing that of Moby Dick, with really exceptional dialogue, with a fully realized Melville in all his self-absorption, this novel was really a treat to read.

Related Posts

Moby Dick or, The Whale

The Night Inspector

The Art of Fielding

 

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2 thoughts on “Day 1046: The Whale: A Love Story

  1. Naomi March 3, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    It’s good to know you liked this! I like novels about writers, but have been hesitant about this one mostly because I’ve heard that it’s not clear how much of it is true. So, I guess I would have the same questions about it that you have.
    I love the cover, though – there have been lots of whale covers lately!

  2. whatmeread March 4, 2017 / 10:18 am

    Yes, the cover is great! Beauregard has a section at the end where he provides some thoughts about the thrust of his plot, but it’s not clear to me, as I said, whether he understands the friends of the same sex tended to behave and write much more affectionately toward each other then than they do now.

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