Review: Moby-Dick

Herman Melville (1851)

This book has been one of my life-long literary goals and I feel a real sense of accomplishment having finally read it. I don’t know what surprised me more about Moby-Dick: How much I highly enjoyed it or the fact that I actually finished it. Is it long? Yes. Daunting? At times. Do I claim to understand all that has made this book the important literary landmark it’s become? No way. But, did I enjoy it and get something out of reading it? Absolutely!

So, there’s this whale and an obsessed ship captain with a peg leg who looks like Gregory Peck…well, you know the story. As the definitive portrait of 19th-century whaling, Melville interweaves a tremendous amount of information throughout his tale of obsession and revenge, some of which seems extraneous to the story, much of which is interesting, and all of which is beautifully written. Personally, I found Melville’s side trips off the main plot to be very engaging; there were only a few times in my reading that I got stuck and wondered “What the heck is he talking about?” But I kept on and was greatly rewarded in the end.

Moby-Dick gets a bad rap as this boring, dense, difficult to read tome. I found the opposite to be true. It’s an exciting sea-faring tale, rich with memorable characters, vivid imagery, historical detail, and wonderful language. [****1/2]

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