Last weekend a few surprising things happened. The first was that I bought The Sun newspaper as I could get a book for £2 if I spent 70p.
The book in question, In The Heart Of The Sea, has been on my to-read list for a while. The Sun hasn’t.
It was full of fast action and competing characters, building a world of heroic class struggle – but that wasn’t at all what I remembered from my day’s reading
I got the book, went home, built a fire with The Sun and curled up to enter the dark world of whaling.
Warning, there are spoilers in here – but if you have any grasp of how people might survive three months at sea in a boat with no food, I expect you’ll have already thought that through.
The story, upon which Moby Dick was based, is about the Essex, a whaling boat from Nantucket. The book is non-fiction and weaves a compelling story of the men, the ship, sinking, starvation and cannibalism.
It’s a brilliant read as the author Nathaniel Philbrick compares and contrasts other incidents with comparable moments and accounts of what happened.
So within a few hours I had consumed the book, hook, line and sinker, and on the way learned where the expressions Greenhorn, clinker and Nantucket sleigh ride come from.
The second surprising thing that day was my husband announcing he’d bought cinema tickets to see In The Heart Of The Sea. This doesn’t happen often, heading off with your pockets full of home-made pick’n’mix to see a film when you’ve just finished reading the book.
I went armed with certain knowledge of what happened to the Essex and its crew, but failed to see that on the big screen. The film was a perfect example of making a movie ‘based on’ true events by making a hero and glossing over uncomfortable truths.
It was full of fast action and competing characters, building a world of heroic class struggle – but that wasn’t at all what I remembered from my day’s reading.
Similarly, the lower class hero didn’t engage in as much cannibalism as he should and we saw his black crewmates survive. In fact they were eaten first.
Half of me understands that, to sell movies, Hollywood likes to cover up dirty little secrets. But the other half wonders why it is so desperate to cover up documented facts.