Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

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Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Jane Jones is running away - from her husband and herself. Her escape takes her from the west coast of America to the East. As she discovers many different cities and landmarks along the way she also starts to discover herself. However, when she arrives at her destination and is reunited with her dear brother, she discovers that running away is not that simple and there are many difficult choices she has to make.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-0340897287

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Ever since I read my first Jodi Picoult novel, I have been a huge fan of this writer and have yet to read a book which fails to live up to my expectations. Therefore, I could not wait to read Song of the Humpback Whale and yet again I was not disappointed. From the moment I started to read I was caught up in the lives of all the different storytellers and could hardly leave it alone until I had finished it.

This book tells the story of Jane and Oliver Jones and their fifteen year old daughter Rebecca. Throughout their marriage, there have been difficult times and over the years the couple have grown further and further apart. Oliver is a marine biologist who studies the songs of humpback whales and Jane and Rebecca almost always have to take second place behind his career. One day though, Jane finally snaps and after a tremendous row she and Rebecca leave. They travel across America guided by letters from Jane's brother Joley until they finally reach the sanctuary of the New England apple orchard where he lives and works. However, life becomes more complicated for both of them on meeting Sam, the owner of the orchard. Jane suddenly starts to experience feelings which have been dormant for years and worry her because she is still married to Oliver. At the same time Oliver is following them on the same journey and as he approaches his destination the novel meets it's very emotional climax.

I really enjoyed reading this book from start to finish. The storyline was so absorbing from the very start and had lots of different elements to hold my interest. This is mainly achieved because the story is told by five different characters, each having the chance to have their say in their own chapters. Through this, the reader is able to understand all of the characters very well. The five storytellers are Jane, Oliver, Joley, Sam and Rebecca.

Jodi Picoult manages to create a very interesting aspect with these though because although four of the characters tell their stories in chronological order Rebecca tells her story in reverse. This means that through her story, the reader knows what happens at the end virtually as soon as they have started reading. I found this intriguing and because of this I had so many questions that I wanted answering as I read. There were some very cleverly crafted chapters in the middle of the book where three consecutive chapters told by Jane, Rebecca and Oliver all converge on the same time and place. This is where they have travelled to the site of an air crash in Iowa which Rebecca survived when just a small child. All three chapters start with the same poignant words describing how and where the plane crashed and I found these very moving. Although the three characters go on to describe their different perspectives it does show that they are not so divided after all.

I loved reading all the other characters' stories too. Jane is the main storyteller and in her chapters we read of wonderful adventures that she and Rebecca experience in their travels. They also encounter some weird and wonderful people on their journeys and these all seem to come alive as she describes them. Joley's chapters are told through the letters he sends Jane. They partly direct her to her next destination but they are also reflective in their nature and particularly take them back to their childhood where they all suffered at the hands of an abusive father. These chapters help to explain why Jane is the sort of person that she is. Oliver's and Sam's chapters are also very thoughtful and particularly with Oliver there is a great deal of self examination as he tries to understand why things have become so difficult between him and his wife.

The pace of this novel was just right, moving on at a good pace in order to maintain interest but not so fast that you would not get the feel of the characters. All were very real and believeable but sometimes they were frustrating as they behaved in ways that it was difficult to understand. I really loved the relationship between Jane and her daughter although ultimately this close relationship becomes destructive and leads to the tragedy of the story.

Overall it's a very thoughtful story and makes you think about the complexities of relationships. Sometimes it is quite uplifting although at others it is quite sad, but it will definitely be one that you'll be glad you have read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this sounds like your sort of novel, you will probably also enjoy The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas.

Buy Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult at

Buy Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult at


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Chloe said:

I adore Jodi Picoult so can't wait for this release.