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A Whale for the Killing

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,187 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In the 1960s, Farley Mowat was living in the tiny fishing community of Burgeo on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. When an 80-ton fin whale became trapped in a nearby saltwater lagoon, Mowat rejoiced: here was the first chance to study at close range one of the most magnificent animals in creation. Some local villagers thought otherwise, blasting the whale with rifle fi ...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published July 28th 2005 by Stackpole Books (first published 1972)
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 ·  1,187 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have been, as long as I can remember, passionate about the ocean and about whales in particular.
This book... this book left me furious, astonished, apopleptic, nearly teary-eyed, frothing with rage, and most of all ready to march up to Canada and punch the lights out of the arsewipes who killed that whale.
So there's Mowat's writing power for you. And between those moments of emotion were the peaceful bits, when beauty and hope crept back into my heart... and nope, someone in the town got a six
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: made-in-canada
What a tale by Canada's infamous author Farley Mowat.

Mowat, famed for his non-fictional accounts on nature, threw together a captivating story so well-written, it felt as though it was a fictional thriller. A Whale for the Killing is a heartbreaking story, pumped full of hope, sorrow, fury, and helplessness.

A Whale for the Killing is essentially the non-fictional Moby Dick. Although the book itself is short, it's scope is as massive as Moby Dick, and equally entertaining.

This book took me on
Although I found the subject of Mowat's novel to be both interesting and horrifying I didn't get to the novel that I expected to read until the last portion of the book.

The first two thirds of the book is all a, somewhat angry, rant about the evils of mankind, specifically of those who seek modernization. For a while Mowat was basically preaching that Frontiersmen = Good and Businessmen = Bad (women didn't figure into the equation at all). The good people of Burgeo (a very small and remote regio
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Emotionally, this was one of the most gut wrenching books I've ever read. Farley Mowat is one of the best writers ever. ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, canadian
Once again Farley Mowat has reduced me to near tears with his extraordinary writing. This book published in 1972 incredibly and realistically captures the blind aggression of human nature, the power of will to do the right thing and be the right kind of man and all those caught in-between. After I read this book, I had to wiki the plight of whales today to see if any progress had been made in protecting them, and although there are some increases, the situation remains bleak with many species un ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"A Whale for the Killing" chronicles the unlikely and you might also say, unseemly doings in a small Newfoundland outport in the 1960s. In what soon proved to be a run of bad luck, one of the largest of the sea mammals, a Fin whale, found itself trapped in a huge body of water near the town of Burgeo. It had managed to just slide over a rocky underwater escarpment and get into the bay, but try as it might it could not get out again.

Farley Mowat's part in the story is rather extraordinary and I w
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, why didn't I read more of Mr. Mowat's book. He's Canadian AND nature lover.

I can't believe this story was first published in 1972, before I was born. What a classic! I wonder, if this incident happens in current time (2020 when I wrote this review) and main communications were not telephone or telegrams, would the whale be saved?

What a heart wrenching story.

I like this sentence, "... Whale could have smashed up our boats as easily as we would smash a couple of eggs. Considering what peopl
Braden A.
I'm not sure that I can fault Farley Mowat's "A Whale for the Killing" for being "too preachy" since that is very much the intent of the book, but Mowat switches styles and tones a few times (particularly in the first 120 pages) which makes the read feel a bit uneven. He can't seem to decide whether he wants to tell the story of what happened with the whale in Burgeo, educate readers on the biology and families of whales, or simply write an essay on the evils of the whaling industry. He could ha ...more
Mrs. Lee
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A difficult yet necessary read.
Kurt Vosper
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was hard to say what I felt about the writing in this book. Mowat wrote about this true story from living on Canada's east coast and a Fin whale becomes stranded in a pond off the ocean while chasing herring. The Fin whale is the second largest whale and second largest creature to have lived on the planet. Locals take to pumping hundreds of rifle rounds into the stranded and pregnant female while Mowat tries to have it protected and fed. Eventually Mowat succeeds but too late as the wounds su ...more
Alex Rankine
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely heavy-handed with its total criticism of industrialisation and modernisation in all forms, at least towards the beginning, but I think that story, once it begins, outweighs this social criticism element (although it obviously still plays an important role).

The author also notes that at the time of publication there was little known data about the subject matter, it also must be noted that there is a clear lack of scientific evidence for the more general claims

I went into thi
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A little slower to start and get into, but once the whale arrives I couldn't put it down. The back of the book pretty much gives away what happens, but I still wanted it to be wrong, and had to see how FM was going to try and save this whale. I found myself sickened by what some people will do, so prepare yourself if you are picking up this book to be disappointed by man and what is considered fun and games by some. ...more
Elaine Cougler
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Whale for the Killing by Farley Mowat is a true account of a stranded whale in a cove near a Newfoundland town. The narrative includes little known facts about whales as well as the sad retelling of this whale's death at the hands of senseless idiots pumping bullets into her and frightening her with their power boats. A disheartening insight into the uglier aspects of human nature. ...more
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Farley Mowat is known for his extravagant tales but he is a storyteller and knows very well how to write an eloquent story. There is also much truth to what he says. this book reminds me of a Barry Lopez's writing in how it can portray an animal in a spiritual sense. It's is an incredibly sad story but has a lot to offer on the insight of the animal itself and our relation to it. ...more
Murielle Cyr
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A sad reminder of how vulnerable nature remains at the hands of the dark side of humankind. Great detail presented about the gentle giants of the ocean world and the danger they encounter when they approach the world of those living on dry land. The societal rejection of those who love and want to protect them is also depicted.
This was a difficult read 50 years ago and isn't any easier now.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Mostly a depiction of yet another crime against the natural world, this true story (with the famous Farley spin) could be called Mowat’s echo to Silent Spring. As with many who provided unpopular news, Mowat was a colourful character who, in a very personal way stands as an early ‘canary in the environmental coal mine’.
Homayra Adiba
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the first time since the trapped whale vanished, I became fully aware of a rending sense of loss. It was dark and there was none to know that I was weeping.. weeping not for just the whale that died, but because the fragile link between her race and mine was severed.
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Wow...I can't believe I read this in school. Maybe grade 5 or 6. I couldn't get interested in it this time. I found it dry and boring. I'm glad that whales are protected now and love seeing them in their natural environment. Such mass destruction in the 50's and 60's. ...more
Belinda Bertrand
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book even though it's heartbreaking to see how humans treated a trapped whale. Shows how barbaric mankind really is. Mowat is a great storyteller and o highly recommend this book. ...more
Rod Innis
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A well written but sad story
Bailey Scott
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh, Farley. Best conservation writer I know. This one was particularly poignant and there were certainly tears, but there were glimmers of trademark of Farley Mowat hilarity.
Mary Mondoux
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have to be honest, this book troubled me so. I couldn't finish it. A brilliant writer. ...more
Mary Mackie
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Upsetting, informative, eye opening, and sad.
Mike Elm
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very very good. A heartwrenching look at mans inhumanity to the rest of nature.
John Nelson
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Canadian conservationist Farley Mowat was living in Newfoundland during the 1960s, a fin whale became entrapped in a coastal cove. Motivated by malice and boredom, some of the locals used the whale for target practice and ripped open its back with a boat's propeller. Later, when the local and provincial governments sought to exploit the whale for publicity, bureaucratic inertia prevented help from arriving, and the whale died from starvation and the infections caused by its injuries before ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In the wake of the Tilikum/Sea World tragedy, I decided to pick up this classic book of humanity’s relationship to the whales. This important book serves as a reminder that there were once—not so long ago--no “dolphin safe” labels, no Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, no everyone-and-her-brother wanting to be a marine biologist, no worldwide communications needed to mobilize people on behalf of animals. There was, for generations, very little controversy regarding how whales should be treated—t ...more
East Bay J
The events chronicled in A Whale For The Killing read like a horror novel. Ostensibly a book about a whale trapped in the harbor of a small Newfoundland town, the book is really about the many faces of mankind, from the horrible ignorance and cruelty to the righteous indignation and magnanimity of one town's residents, a microcosm for the people of the world.

At the time this book was written, significantly less was known about whales than is known now. The unregulated, wholesale slaughter of wha
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
During a high spring tide on the south coast of Newfoundland, a 70 ft Fin whale follows a school of herring into a large lagoon and becomes trapped there once the tide ebbs. The locals find her and, through ignorance and cruelty, decide to use her as target practice with shotguns. A few days later, local biologist/naturalist and writer, Farley Mowat, hears about the trapped whale and goes to see her for himself. Instantly appalled by the whale's condition, he takes it upon himself to inform Cana ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a TOUGH read. Not because of the style, or lack of a story, but because of the subject matter. I had to put this book aside twice while reading it because I was just too upset to continue. That being said, I think this is a very important book that needs to be read by absolutely everyone.

Farley Mowat tells a story of a time when he called Burgeo, Newfoundland his sanctuary. When he enjoyed the culture and the people, until a whale is trapped in a local pond and a line is drawn in the s
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a tough read. Mowat does a great job of describing the plight of the whales back in the 1960s when he was living in Burgeo, Newfoundland, as well as telling the story of an unfortunate fin whale that gets trapped in a small ocean-connected pond near Burgeo. Reading about the brutality of the whaling practices of the day as well as the mob-motivated violence done to the trapped whale was very, very difficult. But it was a story that needed to be told and one Mowat tells well. My favourit ...more
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Farley McGill Mowat was a conservationist and one of Canada's most widely-read authors.

Many of his most popular works have been memoirs of his childhood, his war service, and his work as a naturalist. His works have been translated into 52 languages and he has sold more than 14 million books.

Mowat studied biology at the University of Toronto. During a field trip to the Arctic, Mowat became outrage

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