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Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger
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Not Forgetting the Whale

by John Ironmonger

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Reading this was like opening a Christmas present you fear is going to be another pair of socks, but which turns out to be exactly what you wanted, cunningly disguised as a pair of socks. You have to give it time - more time than I would normally want to give a book - but what initially looks to be a potentially nauseating tale of community spirit in lovely close-knit communities trumping the self-interest of evil big cities builds into something much bigger. And yes, I think that community vs self-interest comparison was still the main point of the book, but the point is made with such intelligence, and using such big ideas that I ceased to be nauseated by it. There is thorough research here, which lends it an authoritative voice, and a determination to depict a scenario many other authors have tackled, but to do it in a different way. ( )
  jayne_charles | Feb 8, 2016 |
A naked young man washes up one autumn morning on the beach in the hamlet of St Piran in Cornwall. The residents rescue him and welcome the stranger, Joe Haak, into their midst. Gradually it emerges that Joe is a computer analyst who used to work in a large investment bank in the City of London. One of the programs he’s designed is telling him that the collapse of civilisation is imminent, and so Joe prepares for the worst by spending his entire savings on stockpiling food in the bell tower of the village church, intending to feed every one of its 307 inhabitants for several weeks.

I loved John Ironmonger’s previous book, The Coincidence Authority, and so had high hopes for this subsequent offering. It all starts out well enough, with his intimate writing style seeming to suggest that you as the reader are in a very privileged position as you’re listening to the author tell you a story. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the premise, the characters are well drawn and the prose is engaging, but it didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. I think in part this is due to the fact that Joe reminisces a little too much without this having any bearing on present-day events, and some very detailed and technical discussions on computer models predicting different scenarios. While these are no doubt thought-provoking and sobering as one reflects on the fragility of our everyday existence, I did feel that these detracted from the humans at the heart of the story, which is when John Ironmonger writes best; in short, I think it lost its way in the middle of the book. While the third part partially makes up for the long second, it also piled on one unlikely event after another, and I feel I had to suspend disbelief a little too often. The final message relating to events on Christmas Day (very timely) is moving and life-affirming – even though a bit slushy – and I would like to think that empathy, generosity and kindness would prevail, rather than self-interest, when it came to it, but news events of the past week (the Sydney siege, the school massacre in Peshawar, the murder of eight children in Cairns), along with excruciating footage of this year’s Black Friday sales, don’t exactly lead me to believe that humans on the whole are capable of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. I do believe that individuals can make a difference to many, and this is the message I will take away from this book, though I do feel unconvinced by what appears to be its ultimate conclusion.

(This review was written as part of Amazon's Vine programme.) ( )
  passion4reading | Dec 20, 2014 |
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Joe saves whale and a
Village in Cornwall. Not bad
For a City boy!
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0297872036, Hardcover)

When a young man washes up, naked, on the sands of St Piran in Cornwall, he is quickly rescued by the villagers. From the retired village doctor and the schoolteacher, to the beachcomber and the owner of the local bar, the priest's wife and the romantic novelist, they take this lost soul into their midst. But what the villagers don't know is that Joe Haak has fled the City of London fearing a worldwide collapse of civilisation, a collapse forecast by Cassie, a computer program he designed. But is the end of the world really nigh? Can Joe convince the village to seal itself off from the outside world? And what of the whale that lurks in the bay? Intimate, funny and deeply moving, Not Forgetting the Whale is the story of a man on a journey to find a place he can call home.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When a young man washes up, naked, on the sands of St Piran, he is quickly rescued by the villagers. From the retired village doctor and the schoolteacher, to the beachcomber and the owner of the local bar, the priest's wife and the romantic novelist, they take this lost soul into their midst. But what the villagers don't know is that Joe Haak worked as an analyst and has fled the City amid fears of a worldwide banking collapse caused by a computer program he invented. But is the end of the world really nigh? And what of the whale that lurks in the bay? Intimate, funny and deeply moving, Not Forgetting the Whale is the story of a man on a journey to find a place he can call home.… (more)

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