“The Porpoise”

If you’re expecting ‘weird’ right off the bat because “The Porpoise” is written by Mark Haddon (the legacy, perhaps, of “The Curious Incident…”) then the beginning lulls you into something of a false sense of security. Okay, the subject matter is undeniably dark, but the beginning feels like a straightforward narrative.

But when the story veers off from modern France / England to ancient Greece – and then later to a vignette of Elizabethan England where Shakespeare makes an appearance as some kind of ghost – then I confess to momentary disorientation…

Yet two things make this perfectly acceptable. The first is that you are allowed to make the connections between the various strands on your own; they aren’t forced down your throat, but are subtly drawn. You’re given time to join the dots.

The second is that “The Porpoise” is really well-written. I particularly loved Haddon’s unobtrusive use of the present tense to give the story immediacy; and I liked the way he’d throw in spoilers – ‘but that didn’t happen’ – rather than rely on other kinds of plot device.

In reading this story of Pericles, Chloë and Miranda – and of Phillipe and Angelica – with its inconclusive – and conclusive – endings, I couldn’t help thinking back to “Circe” (which I read not that long ago) and drawing parallels. Conclusion? In my humble opinion, “The Porpoise” is vastly superior. Simple as that.