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The Language of the Sea

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  86 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
A lyrical and affecting family drama reminiscent of The Shipping News which challenges readers to re-examine their perception of nature

A striking blend of realism and contemporary myth-making, this unforgettable novel tells the story of marine biologist Leo Kemp. Having lost his teaching position thanks to outspoken views, Leo decides to go on one last field trip with his
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Thomas Dunne Books
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This is a beautiful story of a marine biologist who is swept overboard while on a day trip with students to study the seals on Monomoy island on the Cape. Leo Kemp has been obsessed with seals since a visit to the zoo as a child where he first saw sea lions. He was familiar with the myths about selkies, seals who took the form of a woman to seduce a man and have children, only to choose to return to the sea. He fantasized about becoming a seal. After being washed overboard, Leo found himself sur ...more
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something a bit different......half fantasy/half reality.
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Language of the Sea
Author: James MacManus
Reviewed by Fran Lewis

Leo Kemp is an outspoken man who finds himself in a serious situation. A marine biologist whose life is taking a downward spiral, he seems more focused on understanding the seals and not on his wife and daughter. Leo works in an Institute in Cold Harbor. His students do not seem that enamored with his lectures and often ask questions that are menial and not challenging. Fascinated with seals their existence, how they communicate, liv
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love discussions surrounding life and death and the fact that this had the added satisfaction of ocean talk made the experience that much better for me.
I'm glad I read this when I did.
Deborah Sloan
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I do apologize for being late for this review, but was so drawn into this work that I had to re-read it. The Language of the Sea by James MacManus brings us into the life of Leo Kemp an academia who loses his teaching post at the Coldharbor Institute For Marine Studies he works for but goes on one last field trip with his students. Lost overboard in a freak storm wave, Leo Kemp believed lost at sea leaves his wife, daughter and community behind to carry on with their lives.

But there are rumors o
At first I found this book entertaining in a mild way, until the main character falls overboard into the sea. The following chapter has him swimming with seals and traveling with them from beach to beach for several weeks, to the avoidance of human contact and rescue. His family and friends morn his loss, while he is surviving on what he can glean from the ocean and seemingly turning into a seal. The plot turned weird on me. While it was a given that the main character is a marine biology profes ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I did enjoy this book once I was able to get into it, it was a bit of a slow process. I had to put it down a couple of times, but I wanted to read it, so I kept going. I really enjoyed the last half of the book. I just had a hard time relating to any of the characters, except for Leo, but only later in the book. I did enjoy learning about the seals and marine life. I do agree that there is so much we have left to learn about our own planet. Try The Language of the Sea and see if it speaks ...more
Judith Yeabsley
The first half of this book wasn't bad but it was just dull. Too slow and not enough to keep you riveted. I picked it up as it was my latest book and not because I was desperate to get back inside the pages. From about half way through it hotted up and was interesting and different and I galloped to the end. This is the second book in a row I have read where the central male character is really, really selfish. Yes they have issues but the way they solve them is to abdicate responsibility regard ...more
Sep 09, 2011 rated it liked it
If your marriage and career are over, can you just swim away? Titled "On the Broken Shore" in the original UK publication, the opening poem says it best:

Don't give your heart
On the broken shore
Where seals and sea dreams
Sing love's song

For wind and wave
Will take your heart
And drown your dreams
On the broken shore
Marcella Curry
Thoroughly enjoyed the main character, Leo, literally losing himself in his work along with the portrayal of life among seals. Less appealing was the portrayal of Cape Cod- much of the geography didn't make sense and the Cape Codders were stereotypes not nuanced characters. The author seems to have several axes to grind which interfered with enjoying this tale.
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to classify. It contains a failing marriage and a failing career, warnings to both scientists and fishermen, and some mystical thinking. It is a small book that says much, has interesting characters, and lovely writing. Try it. You'll like it.
Mary sipp rigby
2011 good weird cape cod book
Anna Noga
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in one evening. Has some bizarre parts but some great parts too. I enjoyed it, especially some of Leo's quotes about scientists.
Apr 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thought it had a great premise...interesting story at first. Then it fell off the deep end..
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this very much.
Jp Lutz
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
His first! I hesitated... happy I didn't

The beginning sets a tone, a pace, follow both. To those familiar with these waters do not hesitate. To the author, thank you.
Kayla Peters
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, was complete and total genius.
Incredibly unique plot,
Mouth dropping ending,
everything about this book was perfection.
A good read that held some surprises and some disappointments.
Ron Samul
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Apr 15, 2011
Elizabeth Wright
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James MacManus has worked in the newspaper business for 46 years. He is currently the Managing Director of the Times Literary Supplement.

He is the author of On the Broken Shore (The Language of the Sea, UK edition), and Ocean Devil: The Life and Legend of George Hogg which was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers

His latest book, Black Venus, is a vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his
More about James MacManus...

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