Pod – Laline Paull


● This was a beautifully written book, however I had an absolute love-hate relationship with it. I was completely enthralled with the story of Ea, a Longi dolphin, and her interactions with many other sea creatures. It was no great leap to go to a story with talking dolphins when we have already read The Axeman’s Carnival with a talking magpie this year, although Pod is a much richer exploration.

I wanted so badly for everything to go well for Ea and it was learning her fate that kept me turning the pages. I struggled with many aspects of this book in terms of the outcomes and experiences of many of the characters, a lot of which were truly horrible. If the author’s intent was to  get us thinking a lot more about the human impact on the ocean environment then she has definitely achieved her goal.

I feel like my life is now divided between Before Pod and After Pod and I really wish I was back to the Before Pod time because Laline Paull has shredded my brain. A strong contender for my book of the year as well as my worst. – Suzy

… Exodus was the Longi people’s kinetic prayer of thanks to the ocean for the survival of their pod. All calves learned the story of how the Longi had been forced out of their beautiful original homewater by the invasion of the cruel barbaric Tursiops tribe. The passage across the ocean from that moment was perilous and marked with many losses.

● At its most basic this is a book about animals trying to exist in a world that humans are mistreating. The narrative begins with Ea, an adolescent spinner dolphin who is deaf and in turmoil about being unable to spin.

However, each subsequent chapter moves to the point of view of another speaking mammal or fish and I felt disengaged for many chapters. There were too many plot diversions and too many voices (though the shit-eating remora was my favourite!) Two thirds in, the focus returned to Ea as well as a former character, Google, a military trained dolphin. It was only then that I engaged fully with the plot and began to feel invested in the characters.

It’s an interesting premise that Paull has tackled and commendation must be given for that. In fiction featuring animals we are used to anthropomorphisation but in this case we are exposed to more of a no holds barred script for a David Attenborough documentary, complete with tribal warfare, animal to animal cruelty and rape, with the mammals’ clicks, beeps and sonar bounces interpreted into English. I began reading into everything wondering if it was all a giant metaphor for colonisation. I’m still not sure.

At this point in time I feel like this book’s premise is a bit of a stretch for me. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if in 20 years time we acknowledge this book as the turning stone for a completely new genre of fiction. – Rachel

Published 2022
261 pages

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