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After the massive critical acclaim of The Pier Falls, Mark Haddon is back with a thrilling and ambitious literary novel packed with his own remarkable storytelling

A wild and brilliant literary adventure from one of our greatest writers

A time-slip adventure epic of fathers, mothers and daughters, pirates and ghosts, Mark leapfrogs from ancient times to modern to confront the perils of childbirth, the madness of grief (and the cold-sweat horror of being thrown overboard, presumed dead, wrapped in a shroud, in a sealed box), and the broken institution of kingship. The characters are bold, extraordinary, larger than life – including some significant female leads. There is a strong sense of place, as in all his books – this is a book that traverses Europe, the countries and people and islands that can be reached by sea and air.

Mark’s writing is blisteringly good, and his storytelling powers are at full throttle – he can turn from the turmoil of the inside mind to the theatrics of a flamboyant fight scene, then pivot to moments of poised calm and exceptional beauty. In the wake of the stunning reviews for his story collection, The Pier Falls, this new novel cements Mark’s position as a literary polymath. As in Pier, Mark’s treatment of death and loss is always surprising and deeply affecting… and vivid.


Mark Haddon cuts right down to the grittiness of humanity every time he writes. The Porpoise is a beautiful, unputdownable, ancient tangle with its own sweeping tides and dangerous depths

Daisy Johnson

Staggeringly ambitious, innovative, beautifully written ... The Porpoise has the pace of a really good thriller, combined with a subtlety and depth that few thrillers have

Pat Barker

[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 Guardian

It's hard to describe just how much tremendous joy and pleasure there is on every page

Charlotte Higgins

A full-throttle blast of storytelling mastery. I read it on the plane in a single sitting at 30,000 feet and enjoyed every second. Gorgeously written and very clever, but also such fun! Ancient and modern overlap and tangle in exhilarating ways, it’s like romping through a Literary Netflix: an episode of something historical and bloody, then something slick and contemporary, then something really weird and unnerving. So many pleasures in one book. The Porpoise is a joy to read

Max Porter

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

Claire Allfree, Evening Standard

An enthralling novel that will sweep you up from the off

Woman & Home, Isabelle Broom

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

Justine Jordan, Guardian

Compelling, satisfying and moving... Haddon's writing is exquisite, balancing simple storytelling with searing insight

Paul Connolly, Metro

A beautifully rendered retelling…[and] a gripping novel that, despite its rollicking plot, never feels relentless, and is often very affecting indeed

Jon Day, Financial Times

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

Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

A fantastical narrative that involves rampaging pirates, ghost women and princesses...Bold

Andrea Martin, Heat

The Porpoise is beautifully written

Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Times

[A] multi-layered, ambitious novel… [with] an immersive, intricate narrative… Elegant, inventive and thought-provoking

Simon Humphreys, Mail on Sunday

The Porpoise is lovely, sad, ambitious and admirable... Every age retells, refocuses and interprets the classics. In The Porpoise Mark Haddon has done so in a way that makes us look afresh not only at the story of Pericles but also at storytelling itself

Simon Baker, Literary Review

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

Sarah Lyall, New York Times

Mark Haddon has written a terrifically exciting novel called The Porpoise … so riveting that I found myself constantly pining to fall back into its labyrinth of swashbuckling adventure and feminist resistance

Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Beguiling yet unsettling

Eithne Farry, Daily Mail

Haddon’s glittering tapestry of a novel skilfully redeploys the structures of Pericles’ source material… In The Porpoise, Haddon gives voice to a character who, in Shakespeare, receives no more than a passing mention, and in doing so, shows the transcendent power of stories to heal and restore

Philip Womack, Independent

Seriously good... a beautiful read you won't forget

Clara Strunk, Evening Standard *Summer Reads*

A rollicking fantastical narrative


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

Tim Smith-Laing, Daily Telegraph

A helix, a mirror ball, a literary box of tricks… take you 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

Anthony Cummins, Observer

This gripping and evocative novel questions the nature of the stories we tell ourselves and others

Birmingham Mail

Haddon deftly adapts this ancient myth for the 21st century to illuminate a timeless, ugly truth about how the violent appetites of men strip women of their agency


A wild adventure...full of splendid incident... There is much to enjoy in this novel -- the liveliness of Haddon's imagination and the virtuosity of his style

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

[The Porpoise] achieve[s] the truly Shakespearean feat of simultaneously conveying disgust at the darkest aspects of human behaviour and relishing them, making the reader feel horribly – and deliciously – complicit

Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express

Stamped with the same bold and original imagination… Haddon’s mash-up of myth and history may have a fantastical feel, but once the reader has adjusted to his exuberant originality they will find prose on every page that is pure joy

Jane Thynne, Tablet, *Novel of the Week*

Haddon writes with wrenching beauty about how the world inflicts itself on the disadvantaged... It's a testament to Haddon's prodigious gifts as a storyteller that this strange, epic adventure is so compulsively readable

Nicholas Mancusi, Time Magazine

A strange, tangled web of a story, drawing on ancient mythology and expanding into time travel… this innovative novel offers escapes into multiple worlds

Culture Whisper

Irresistible storytelling that slides between the present day and a mythic realm… A heady delight

Guardian, *Summer Reads of 2019*

The novel draws on Shakespeare and Greek legend, and is the sort of mile-a-minute adventure you can get lost in for hours without realising

ShortList, *Summer Reads of 2019*

[The Porpoise] confirms the sense of a gifted writer letting his talent off the leash at last… Mind-bending yet marvellously readable, it stakes Haddon’s claim to be one of the best writers in Britain right now

Daily Mail, *Summer reads of 2019*

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 21, 2019

    Chatto & Windus

    336 pages

    RRP $37.00

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • Hardback


    May 9, 2019

    Chatto & Windus

    336 pages

    RRP $55.00

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    May 2, 2019

    Vintage Digital

    336 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ



Maja is thirty-seven weeks pregnant. She would not be allowed on a commercial flight but they have been staying with friends who own a vineyard in Bellevue Champillon and one of the other guests, Viktor, has a Piper PA-28 Warrior which he intends to fly back to Popham the following morning. His Land Rover is waiting at the airfield and it will be the simplest thing in the world to drop her at the Winchester house en route to the south coast. Her husband, Philippe, does not like placing Maja in the care of another man, let alone one he has met only two days previously, but the jigsaw falls so serendipitously into place that refusal is almost impossible. He will drive to Paris, leave the car at the apartment, take the Eurostar to London and be back in Winchester a day later.

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