'I really am so very, very sorry about this,' he says, in an oddly formal voice They strike the side of a grain silo. They are travelling at seventy miles per hour.
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; in which 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.
Mark Haddon is one of our most imaginative storytellers, whose work has been read and enjoyed by millions. In his most recent book, The Pier Falls ('Superbly gripping', Sunday Times), he reworked two mythical legends - Ariadne on Naxos and Gawain and the Green Knight - and turned them into startling contemporary stories. In The Porpoise he takes on the epic tale of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, to stunning dramatic effect.
"Wondrous... a violent, all-action thrill ride shuttling between antiquity and the present... just downright brilliant... a transcendant, transporting experience... A helix, a mirror ball, a literary box of tricks… take your pick: this is a full-spectrum pleasure, mixing metafictional razzmatazz with pulse-racing action and a prose style to die for. I'll be staggered if it's not spoken of whenever prizes are mentioned this year"
Observer - Anthony Cummins
"A beautifully rendered retelling…[and] a gripping novel that, despite its rollicking plot, never feels relentless, and is often very affecting indeed"
Financial Times - Jon Day
"The extraordinary force and vividness of Haddon's prose ensure that The Porpoise reads [...] as a continually unfolding demonstration of the transporting power of stories... This is language that knows how to do things: sail a ship, make a gold buckle, negotiate the tides of the Thames. It's a stunningly effective combination of the quotidian and the mythic that pins impossibility to the page"
Guardian - Justine Jordan
"Compelling, satisfying and moving... Haddon's writing is exquisite, balancing simple storytelling with searing insight"
Metro - Paul Connolly
"The Porpoise is terrifically violent, with a bright, innocent ferocity … Haddon wants to restore agency to the female characters sidelined by the Antiochus legend. This could feel like a condescending attempt to end up on the right of history, but doesn't"
The New Yorker - Katy Waldman
"Told in Haddon's generously telegraphic prose - onparticularly good form here - [...] The Porpoise is a defiantly odd novel, dependent on the fine caul of Haddon's prose to keep together the heavily spiced romantic mixture within… Haunted not just by its direct source but by Ovid and others, the novel exists in a world of old magic, of stories within stories, and webs of allusion that would crumble swiftly if mishandled, but which, here, weave their spell marvellously well"
Daily Telegraph - Tim Smith-Laing
"[The Porpoise] races across the oceans: it is a book of thrilling, salt-caked adventures that scintillate like sunlight on the surface of the sea. There are plagues and famines and sword fights with not-quite human adversaries. There are desperate escapes and terrible family separations and dramatic recognitions. It is a breathless, delightful, utterly absorbing read"
"The Porpoise by Mark Haddon is the book I've recommended the most this year because it's the one I had the most fun with. It kept shifting as I read it, changing from action to romance to science-fiction. It's dizzying"
Observer, *Books of the Year* - Stuart Turton
"Beguiling...ambitious...bold... Haddon's prose is beautiful, and he is utterly in command of his slippery material... An elegant homage to stories' capacity for endless renewal"
Evening Standard - Claire Allfree
The Times - Johanna Thomas-Corr
"Daring... extraordinary... Haddon's writing is beautiful, almost hallucinatory at times, and his descriptions so rich and lush and specific that smells and sights and tastes and sounds - foam smashing across a boat's deck; a breakfast of olives and barley bread soaked in wine; a woman trapped alive in a coffin - all but waft and dance off the page... The Porpoise is a provocative and deeply interesting work"
New York Times - Sarah Lyall
"[A] multi-layered, ambitious novel… [with] an immersive, intricate narrative… Elegant, inventive and thought-provoking"
Mail on Sunday - Simon Humphreys