Words, Words, Words: The Porpoise

by Mark Haddon

Thursday, November 04, 2021, 6:30 pm
Virtual Event on Zoom | 6:30 Eastern Time
Free, Registration required

"What do you read, my lord?"
"Words, words, words."
Hamlet, II.ii.209-10

About the Book Club

Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare and the early modern era.

Held on the first Thursday of the month, this informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare's plays and will be sourced from a different indie bookstore each month.

To spark the discussion, Folger staff will be on hand to provide historical context, throw in trivia, and speak to relevant items from the library collection.

Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.

Register for the discussion


Our November Pick

The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

Content transparency: This book contains instances of sexual abuse. We have provided additional context below.

In a bravura feat of storytelling, Mark Haddon calls upon narratives ancient and modern to tell the story of Angelica, a young woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her father. When a young man named Darius discovers their secret, he is forced to escape on a boat bound for the Mediterranean.

To his surprise he finds himself travelling backwards over two thousand years to a world of pirates and shipwrecks, of plagues and miracles and angry gods. Moving seamlessly between the past and the present, Haddon conjures the worlds of Angelica and her would-be savior in thrilling fashion. As profound as it is entertaining, The Porpoise is a stirring and endlessly inventive novel from one of our finest storytellers.

“Electrifying...As thrilling as it is thoughtful.” —The Washington Post

Why did we choose this?

The Folger Shakespeare Library's collection explores not only Shakespeare's life and works, but also the plays' historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

The Porpoise borrows plot elements and character inspirations from Shakespeare's Pericles, offering a completely original retelling of this seafaring adventure. Listen to the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast as Mark Haddon discusses his reinterpretation of Shakespeare's play.

Listen to the Podcast

Order Your Book

Purchase Your Copy

This month, we are thrilled to once again partner with our friends at Kramers, the first bookstore/café in Washington DC.

In addition to possessing a lively, convivial atmosphere, and a full-service bar, Kramers stages hundreds of book-related events each year, both in the store and elsewhere. From tourists to neighbors, college students to the political elite, there is something for everyone at Kramers! Learn more at kramers.com.

Pickup at their Dupont Circle location is available by calling 202.387.1400. You can also order directly on bookshop.org, or download the audiobook version of this title from Libro.fm.

Due to supply chain issues, we recommend securing your copy of The Porpoise as soon as possible. Audio and e-books provide additional options in cases where the physical book is backordered.


We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program:


Content Transparency

This book contains multiple references to a father sexually abusing his daughter.
Swipe right or click the arrow for further information (includes spoilers).

About halfway through "The Child" section of the novel, Philippe begins to sexually abuse his young daughter, Angelica. The introduction of this abuse (34-38 in the paperback edition) focuses primarily on the feelings of Philippe and Angelica, and the knowledge by those around them that something is wrong, though specific actions are mentioned. The abuse or references to it continue sporadically throughout the novel, including pages 50, 57, 83, 103, 108, and 164 in the paperback edition.

If you have further questions, please email folgerboxoffice@folger.edu.