Philip Hoare
Fourth Estate

€17.00 pb €19.90 hb

Philip Hoare is a masterful writer about the sea. He is in or on it everyday of the year, whether in Cape Cod, Southampton Water, the bay of Mexico or the North of Scotland. Risingtidefallingstar part memoir, part literary biography, is full beachings, wreckings and drownings, from Shakespeare’s Tempest to Virginia Woolf. In the manner of WG Sebald he links his own experience to long dead writers, the sea-obsessed romantics Byron and Keats, Shelley who famously drowned, Elizabeth Barrett Browning whose brother met the same fate. Melville is there, of course, even Wilfred Owen, for whom he reveals a previously unsuspected connection with the ocean. I was fascinated to discover that Philip Hoare was born Patrick Moore (he changed his name so as not to be confused with the astronomer) and is both genetically and sympathetically Irish.

A dip in Bantry Bay brings him back to his Catholic roots and inspires a disquisition on the Great Famine. The book ends with a delightful and unexpected fragment of biography of Harry Clarke whose windows embellished the church in England where he worshipped as a child. Nothing quite like it-it’s a pleasure from start to finish.

Camilla Dinkel