I have to admit, I wasn’t planning on reading this book. As a freediver and scuba diver, I have come across far too many guys who think they are “half man half dolphin”, girls who believe in “dolphin therapy” and general hippies who say “we have a lot to learn about our behaviour” from them (maybe we do, but we don’t need the dolphins to tell it to us – we know it already, the truth is just inconvenient!). So, I was cynical – but when a copy arrived in the post, it seemed churlish not to at least give it a chance.
Make yourself do that. The first few chapters of Dolphin Way are hard work. Getting used to the beautiful but complex dolphin names reminded me of reading Russian novels (“Touches the Sky”, “Fades into Dusk” and my favourite “Muddy River Mouth”). Reading life from a dolphin’s point of view and learning the language is also a bit of a challenge (maybe it needs a key, but then working it out is also fun – “Walker”= human, “Cleaner” = shark – and the names are all intelligent). But… once you get into it, it really gets going, a bit like War and Peace really.
Serious messages about the environment are just part of the furniture – you never feel like the book is preaching to you. As a fisherman’s daughter, I loved the thought of dolphins sticking to feeding quotas! Favourite quote: “We can’t just float about like plankton, hoping the other species will see reason.”
Humour, mostly revolving around Muddy, is mixed easily in alongside drama, much as it is in real life. The action does occasionally get violent, which at first made me think this might make the book, which otherwise might be a great teenage read, might not suit children – but then I remembered Harry Potter’s battles!
From a freediving point of view, the physiology and technical stuff is very sound. The dolphins go to classes to learn cardiac control, use colour visualisation techniques like Pelizarri’s to enable blood shift, go into similar trance like states to freedivers – and of course blow bubble rings for fun! I only found one freediving error, which I’m going to keep to myself and see if any other divers can spot.
Overall, the author’s obvious intelligence, quick wit and intense knowledge and first-hand experience of the underwater world bring this novel to life and make it shine like the sparkly sea in the sunshine.
Sitting comfortably on my bookshelf alongside the Ingo series, Dolphin Way is a great read for all ages and I look forward to the next. Don’t be put off by the hippy vibe, laugh at the occasional cringeworthy chapter (rescuing humans, cures for cancer….). Get a copy and immerse yourself in the dolphin’s world.