Strandings (Hardback)

Confessions of a Whale Scavenger

Peter Riley

Searching for a woman who took a souvenir from a whale carcass, a Melville scholar loses his grip on reality

'Wild and wonderful ... I doubt anyone will ever match Strandings for its sheer bravura, its wry insight, and its absolute, engulfing, and brilliantly enlivening whaleheadedness'
PHILIP HOARE, ALBERT AND THE WHALE

'Addictive and scandalously fascinating' Caught by the River

When Peter Riley was thirteen, a woman with blue hair and a comet tattoo asked him to help load the jaw of a sperm whale into the back of a Volvo 245. The encounter set Riley on a decades-long quest to make sense of what had happened.

Enter the secretive world of whale scavengers. When a whale washes up on one of Britain's coasts, a fugitive community descends to claim trophies from the carcass. Some are driven by magical beliefs. Some are motivated by profit: there is a black market for everything from ambergris to whaletooth sex toys. But for others, the need goes much deeper.

Join Riley on a tour of a stranded kingdom's weird outer reaches, where nothing is as it seems. Meet witches, pedlars, fetishists, conspiracy theorists and fallen aristocrats. And prepare for a final revelation, as the mystery of the comet woman tangles with the enigmatic symbol of Leviathan itself, beached on Britain's fatal shore.

Publication date: 24/02/2022

£14.99

ISBN: 9781788166072

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Travel & Nature

Strandings (Ebook)

Confessions of a Whale Scavenger

Peter Riley

Searching for a woman who took a souvenir from a whale carcass, a Melville scholar loses his grip on reality

'Wild and wonderful ... I doubt anyone will ever match Strandings for its sheer bravura, its wry insight, and its absolute, engulfing, and brilliantly enlivening whaleheadedness'
PHILIP HOARE, ALBERT AND THE WHALE

'Addictive and scandalously fascinating' Caught by the River

When Peter Riley was thirteen, a woman with blue hair and a comet tattoo asked him to help load the jaw of a sperm whale into the back of a Volvo 245. The encounter set Riley on a decades-long quest to make sense of what had happened.

Enter the secretive world of whale scavengers. When a whale washes up on one of Britain's coasts, a fugitive community descends to claim trophies from the carcass. Some are driven by magical beliefs. Some are motivated by profit: there is a black market for everything from ambergris to whaletooth sex toys. But for others, the need goes much deeper.

Join Riley on a tour of a stranded kingdom's weird outer reaches, where nothing is as it seems. Meet witches, pedlars, fetishists, conspiracy theorists and fallen aristocrats. And prepare for a final revelation, as the mystery of the comet woman tangles with the enigmatic symbol of Leviathan itself, beached on Britain's fatal shore.

Publication date: 24/02/2022

£12.99

ISBN: 9781782837497

ISBN 10 / ASIN: B095TSXY6K

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Travel & Nature

Reviews for Strandings

'A strange book ... you can't help being swept along on the tides of Riley's esoteric thinking ... for each of [Riley's] motley crew, whale strandings offer more than just collector's items: dead whales are key, it seems, to their understanding of who they are'

Clare Saxby TLS

'An addictive and scandalously fascinating book written from the centre of a storm of obsession. You will finish feeling spun out and tugged into the maelstrom that is Riley's whales'

 Caught by the River

'Enchanting ... these whale strandings are therefore both an echo of a fundamental moment for our own species, and a grim premonition of where we might soon be heading'

 Strong Words

'

A wild and wonderful whale chase, of cetaceans real and surreal and imagined, Peter Riley's beautifully written book adopts the sceptical/obsessive tone of a modern Melville (or perhaps that should be Captain Ahab) as he roams Britain from east to west, north to south, in search of usually dead and often rotting whales and the stories they leave in their wake. There's no box of dusty bones he won't stick his nose in, no dubious character on a beach he won't shake down for stolen whale teeth. Indeed, Riley's so interwoven with his subject that I doubt anyone will ever match Strandings for its sheer bravura, its wry insight, and its absolute, engulfing, and brilliantly enlivening whaleheadedness

'

Philip Hoare, author Leviathan and Albert and the Whale

'

With wit and a whale-lover's passion, Riley explores the cultural and emotional bonds that form between humans and our sea-dwelling, mammalian cousins - both alive and dead. Strandings is at once incisive and funny, personal and historical, gripping and moving

'

Merlin Sheldrake, author Entangled Life

'Erudite, funny and sad - a glorious rollercoaster of a book whose twists and turns take us again and again to the dissolving edges between reality and mirage'

Jean Sprackland, author These Silent Mansions

'A marvellous read. Subversive, jaunty, poignant, deadly serious and relentlessly entertaining'

Charles Foster, author Being a Human and Being a Beast

'A tremendously enjoyable book, a gleefully peculiar mixture of grief and gore populated by a shadowy cast of oddballs, the only certainty the dead whales at its heart'

Jessie Greengrass, author The High House

'Reading Strandings is to be caught in a magical drift, borne ever deeper, into the atavistic, into the animal selves, still alive, inside us. I was captivated'

David Keenan, author This Is Memorial Device

'A funny, personal and poetic dive into the mystical world of whale strandings. A compelling and fascinating read'

Will Sharpe, creator of C4's Flowers

'I devoured this - it's wonderful ... As compellingly eccentric as it is deeply humane, emotionally and politically astute. One test of a memoir is that you actually want to spend time with the narrator, and Riley is so charming, outward looking and rigorously honest it's impossible to consider anyone not. Strandings is a funny and poignant exploration of a fringe I didn't know existed, but written with such engaging personality and prose style I feel as though I've met the cast myself'

Luke Kennard, poet and author The Transition

'An authentic and troubling adventure for these dark times. Here is the taste, smell, and rush of a committed documentary-novelist unpicking the mysteries of his life and the great world in which he swims. A brave, reckless and engaging performance'

Iain Sinclair, author The Gold Machine

'Just the kind of book we need now: ecologically, politically, comedically potent and with personality worthy of Melville'

Liam Williams, comedian and writer Pls Like

Peter Riley

Peter Riley

Peter Riley lectures in American literature at the University of Exeter, and the inaugural winner of the Profile-Aitken Alexander Prize. He has been investigating the world of the whale scavengers since his teens.