The Twenty SS20 Issue

Aquatic Fiction

By Katy Darby


Katy Darby pin points three pieces of fiction based off shore into the unpredictable oceans that undoubtedly add credence to the old adage: ‘Worse things have happened at sea…’

1. Moby-Dick; or, The White Whale by Herman Melville
Obsessive Captain Ahab, master of the whaling ship Pequod, pursues his cetacean nemesis Moby-Dick across the world’s oceans: recognised as the Daddy of seafaring yarns, Melville’s 1851 masterpiece is considered one of the great American novels. Incidentally, it also gave the name to one of America’s most successful coffee companies and the hero(ine) of Battlestar Galactica – the first mate of the ship is called Starbuck.

2. Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
This Booker-shortlisted historical adventure tells of the adventures of Victorian urchin Jaffy Brown, who takes to the sea with a motley crew of sailors and ne’er-do-wells, in search of a fabulous creature for his boss Jamrach’s menagerie. They plan to capture and bring back a Komodo dragon, but it all goes about as horribly wrong as it possibly can.

3. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Water, water, everywhere/Nor any drop to drink …” Old sea-dogs don’t just populate the pages of fiction – this nightmarish narrative poem from 1798, originally published in Coleridge and Wordsworth’s collaborative collection Lyrical Ballads, contains some of the most compelling – not to say frightening – scenes and imagery in Romantic literature. The moral of the story? Be nice to albatrosses.