The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This started off really lovely and poignant and sad, and then it became... confusing?
Haddon plays with the various myths of Pericles of Tyre (Appolinus / Apollonius) and it's all very well done, very well written, very heart-wrenching. I don't know the original mythology well enough to tell you how accurate the retelling is or how much liberties Haddon as made. However, taking each section, each shift and retelling on its own, Haddon crafts each of them perfectly, entrancingly.
The problem lies with the fact that throughout the twists and turns of the mythology and symbolism, the storyline gets muddled. A character from the start (or the "real life" story) merges in the character of the myth, but instead of staying parallel, instead of staying true to type, the types seem to interchange and jump about until you're wondering: didn't Pericles start off as Darius? Why is he now seemingly Philippe? Is Angelique Chloe or Marina? Or both? It felt like several storylines and characters were lost in the shuffle and then conveniently forgotten about. Could this be because I don't know the core myth? Maybe. Still, it feels like something is missing--somewhere during the jumps between myth and life, some connections seem to have broken or were messed up.
Another thing that wasn't made clear enough for me: how does the myth relate to the real world? Is it all in Angelique's head? Or maybe in Darius's (since the shift starts during his timeline)? Are the intersections real intersections or are they just convenient shifting points for Haddon?
The material itself is also potentially triggering. It deals with grief, abuse and incest, leading to murder and self-harm. These are never fully resolved. There is no happy resolution. Instead, the ending is rather dark so if these are subject matters you have trouble with, this is not the book for you.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House UK, Vintage Publishing via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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