The Whale by Mark Beauregard is a novel based on the love between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Kris put it in my hands and I made my way through it - a tale of frustrated love and a feverish, soul torturing inspiration in the form of a marrow deep bond between two men that inspired a masterpiece. It was a fitting parallel reading for a week where the indefinable and unanswerable question of our human souls was writ large in media in every moment in the form of circular repeating death scenes. Melville's and Hawthorne's souls were on trial at an equally feverish pitch, but the sexual tension, humor and human pace cut the old testament brimstone. In the end this story, as our story is now, is a love story where human beings love, resent and inspire each other into salvation and damnation equally. -Jay's September Staff Pick, 2016
— From Jay's Reading List
A rich and captivating novel set amid the witty, high-spirited literary society of 1850s New England, offering a new window on Herman Melville's emotionally charged relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how it transformed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick
In the summer of 1850, Herman Melville finds himself hounded by creditors and afraid his writing career might be coming to an end--his last three novels have been commercial failures and the critics have turned against him. In despair, Melville takes his family for a vacation to his cousin's farm in the Berkshires, where he meets Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic--and his life turns upside down. The Whale
chronicles the fervent love affair that grows out of that serendipitous afternoon. Already in debt, Melville recklessly borrows money to purchase a local farm in order to remain near Hawthorne, his newfound muse. The two develop a deep connection marked by tensions and estrangements, and feelings both shared and suppressed.
Melville dedicated Moby-Dick
to Hawthorne, and Mark Beauregard's novel fills in the story behind that dedication with historical accuracy and exquisite emotional precision, reflecting his nuanced reading of the real letters and journals of Melville, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. An exuberant tale of longing and passion, The Whale
captures not only a transformative relationship--long the subject of speculation--between two of our most enduring authors, but also their exhilarating moment in history, when a community of high-spirited and ambitious writers was creating truly American literature for the first time.