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Disturbing ode to love affair with the sea

Non-fiction

By Beverley Rouse

Philip Hoare returns to the themes of several of his previous books in this ode to the beauty and cruelty of the sea.

His obsession with whales is probably a more obvious link to the ocean than stories about writer Oscar Wilde and socialite Stephen Tennant, but Hoare's tales about other humans are the most interesting part.

He weaves these real-life stories about fascinating people with musings on fiction like Shakespeare's The Tempest in a book scattered with interesting photos and illustrations.

Hoare also describes his own obsession with the sea through regular swims and rather disturbing tales of dead creatures he finds on the shore.

He describes pulling off a bird's head, gouging out a deer's eye and poking his fingers inside a dead dolphin's genitals "out of prurient curiosity".

It's an interesting read, but, at nearly 400 pages, would benefit from a ruthless sub to trim down those grisly, often rambling and rather self-indulgent stories.

Belfast Telegraph

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