A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.
When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail… So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears.
A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore.
Pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.
About the author
Mark Haddon is a writer and artist. His bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was published simultaneously by Jonathan Cape and David Fickling in 2003. It won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. In 2012, a stage adaptation by Simon Stephens was produced by the National Theatre and went on to win seven Olivier Awards in 2013 and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. In 2005, his poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, as published by Picador, and his play, Polar Bears, was produced by the Donmar Warehouse in 2010. His most recent novel, The Red House, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. The Pier Falls, a collection of short stories, was also published by Cape in 2016. To commemorate the centenary of the Hogarth Press he wrote and illustrated a short story that appeared alongside Virginia Woolf ’s first story for the press in Two Stories (Hogarth, 2017).
The judges on the shortlist
Guy Gunaratne on The Porpoise
There is storytelling of such primacy in Mark Haddon’s The Porpoise, that when I turned the last page, I was left completely elated. A gorgeous, enlivening experience. It is also one that insistently asks: how? How did all this add up to something so sublime? How, with all its subtle slips, and stunningly weird passages, could this strange, beautiful book feel so finely composed? It is disarmingly wild. And the story itself, in which the myth of Appolonius, remixed as Pericles by Shakespeare and George Wilkins, is again turned inside out, thrown backward and forward, and hurled against oceans (in an act of imaginative heroism by the author), invites us to understand something Haddon always has, which is that even stories as old as this one can remain relevant to our current moment. Especially if they are told with this much originality and conviction.