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3 November 2014

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Cetacean Disco - by Kathleen Jamie

Cetacean Disco offers the reader an interesting and entertaining account of a boat trip. Its odd title promises us a tale of dancing dolphins and whales - the cetaceans being that group of mammals that are found mainly in the sea, but also in rivers and lakes, primarily the dolphin/whale families. Kathleen Jamie and a group of others have set out on one of those boats that you find in most small ports throughout Europe, advertising "trips" or "cruises" and promising the chance to mingle with the inhabitants of the sea. In it, we watch with her the whales and dolphins she saw off the west coast of Scotland, and get a vivid picture of them as they swim and dive around the boat.

Yet, when you begin to listen carefully, you can hear a rich range of voices: they weave for us a detailed tapestry of facts, opinions, feelings, attitudes and values. These voices tell us much about nature, human nature, the author, the landscape and even ourselves. We are left wondering, perhaps, about why Jamie took us with her on this trip, as the focus swings from place to person, from the antics of the dolphins and whales to snatches of human conversation.

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