... superbly readable ... gives us, in fascinating detail, the stark, bloodstained true story which Melville raided and then rebuilt to his own grandiose poetical specifications in Moby Dick,, yet it never ignores the wider imaginative context - the ingrained, inexplicable superstitions of sea folklore that lend Melville's work its atmosphere of predestined moral tragedy ... What's impressive about In the Heart of the Sea is its power to suggest that tragedy is what happens when men cannot rise above themselves ... a compelling study of the infinite human meanings of the sea itself.
Philbrick is well qualified to describe the issues raised by the Essex s final whale hunt ... Philbrick uses the cabin boy’s more class-conscious narrative to correct the often self-serving prose of the mate. A fascinating tale, well told.
a mix of holy seawater, hot blood and searching analysis. Philbrick has elevated the adventure of the Essex to a rich and disturbing study of the secret root-tangles of how and why things happened as they did, holding up what we know now of human and animal behavior against the 1820 circumstances and actions ... The approach is unusual and fresh, the book intelligent, probing, scholarly, gripping and satisfying. It sets a new mark for maritime literature, away from the traditional adventure pattern. And for all his erudite knowledge applied to the complexities of human behaviours, Philbrick does not neglect to note the random twists of fate that make or ruin a life ... Much of the literary excellence of In the Heart lies in its fine and introspective passages ... The Nantucket of 1820 in Philbrick's pages comes across as a strange and somewhat sinister place, characterised by familiarity with death, clannishness, class divisions, stored anger, sharp business practices, and oppression.
Philbrick tells the entire harrowing story in workmanlike and authoritative fashion ... Philbrick provides early notice that his account is going to be a richly contextualized one, and it is throughout.
... this true maritime yarn will surely appeal to anyone with a yen to expand their seafaring insights ... this non-fiction adventure still manages to grip the reader with a well constructed and thrilling trawl into the past.
With a gracefulness of language that rarely falters, Philbrick spins a ghastly, irresistible tale that draws upon archival material ... A champion sailboat racer himself, Philbrick has a particular affinity for his subject. His fastidious, extensive notes and bibliography will please historians, but it's his measured prose that superbly re-creates a cornerstone of the early American frontier ethos.