The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard

The cover of "The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard"

The back ground is blue, "The" and "A Love Story" are written in pink all caps font, while "Whale" is in white and written larger. 
Below that is a large white whale over a small house done in pink, at the bottom is the author's name, Mark Beauregard.

Snapchat caption reads: "Gay historical fiction my love" with a heart eyes emoji at the end of the line

For those lovers of “Moby Dick” and Herman Melville, “The Whale: A Love Story” is a delightful and compelling work of historical fiction that peers into the life of Melville during the period in which he was writing “Moby Dick,” struggling with debts, and had a close relationship with fellow author Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, prior knowledge of “Moby Dick” and Melville isn’t really required to read the book. I knew very little about Melville and Hawthorne as authors going into this and I have not read “Moby Dick,” and my knowledge of it primarily comes from cultural osmosis. As such, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in queer history, historical romances, and maritime or literary history. 

Melville as a character, is wholly relatable and horribly embarrassing in equal measures. If we were to rate him on the scale of distinguished/functional/disaster gay, he would be solidly disaster. You want both to cheer him on in his work and pursuit of Hawthorne’s friendship and smack him over the head and beg him to please use some common sense.

Quote: "...but now that he had almost completed the book, he saw that it was badly conceived and poorly written."

Snapchat caption (or snaption): "God, what a mood"
Quote: "Hawthorne said he would be honored to sleep wherever Herman would suffer him to lay his head, a comment Herman found excruciating." 

Snapchat caption: "Herman Melville is a disaster gay of the highest order"

It is a marked difference from Hawthorne’s own personality, which is reserved and measured even in his exuberance. Hawthorne is also very much influenced by a Puritanical upbringing and struggles to place his feelings for Melville alongside his feelings for his wife. 

Quote: "Herman realized with heart-stopping joy that he needed by turn his head slightly to kiss Hawthorne."

Snapchat caption: No no no, that is a very bad idea Herman

This is the only book I think I’ve ever read where I was begging the main couple not to kiss, because I could tell that it would spell disaster. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t give us a thorough and beautiful portrayal of Hawthorne and Melville’s relationship though, it’s just a very 19th century gay relationship and all the caution and trepidation that could entail. All of the tender longing and yearning is there from both parties (though we get rather more from Melville, since it is his point of view), and we are given a delightful ending that had me pressing my face into my book to muffle my quiet screaming. 

Quote: "Can't you just say plainly how you feel?" / He [Hawthorne] turned around to face Herman again. "I know that you are unlike anyone I have ever met. When I am around you, I feel at liberty to express myself completely as I see fit, because I am quite sure you will understand me. It's a freedom I have longed for, but I also know that what you want from me, I cannot give." 

Snapchat caption: "Oof, that hits me right in the gay"

The epilogue (which should most definitely be read) gives us a look into the research done by the author, and it was fascinating how he worked to incorporate the letter correspondence between Melville and Hawthorne that was interspersed throughout the chapters. Most of the letters from Melville to Hawthorne (with a handful of exceptions) are real letters. However, none of Hawthorne’s are, because we don’t have any of his letters from this period. What the author did instead, was use the letters of Hawthorne’s we do have to create the fictional replies we see from Hawthorne in the book, which I think is a terribly clever way to get around the missing letter problem.

A genuinely lovely and tender piece of fiction, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested. The book can be found in a variety of locations online, including new and used through Bookshop.org. 

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