If you’re expecting ‘weird’ right off the bat because “The Porpoise” is written by Mark Haddon (the legacy, perhaps, of “The Curious Incident…”) then the beginning lulls you into something of a false sense of security. Okay, the subject matter is undeniably dark, but the beginning feels like a straightforward narrative.
But when the story veers off from modern France / England to ancient Greece – and then later to a vignette of Elizabethan England where Shakespeare makes an appearance as some kind of ghost – then I confess to momentary disorientation…
Yet two things make this perfectly acceptable. The first is that you are allowed to make the connections between the various strands on your own; they aren’t forced down your throat, but are subtly drawn. You’re given time to join the dots.
The second is that “The Porpoise” is really well-written. I particularly loved Haddon’s unobtrusive use of the present tense to give the story immediacy; and I liked the way he’d throw in spoilers – ‘but that didn’t happen’ – rather than rely on other kinds of plot device.
In reading this story of Pericles, Chloë and Miranda – and of Phillipe and Angelica – with its inconclusive – and conclusive – endings, I couldn’t help thinking back to “Circe” (which I read not that long ago) and drawing parallels. Conclusion? In my humble opinion, “The Porpoise” is vastly superior. Simple as that.