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About the Author

Rebecca Giggs is a writer from Perth, Western Australia. Her work has been widely published, including in Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Science Writing, Best Australian Stories, Granta, Aeon, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and Griffith Review. Rebecca's nonfiction focuses on how people feel about, and feel for, animals in a time of technological change and ecological crisis.


'Fathoms is perhaps the finest book written about whales since Moby Dick was published 170 years ago. It's also one of the best accounts I've ever read of the interaction, intended and unintended, between humans and other species - a work of genuinely literary imagination.'

-- Verlyn Klinkenborg * New York Review of Books *

'Fathoms took my breath away. Every page is suffused with magic and meaning. Humanity's relationship with nature has never been more important or vulnerable, and we are truly fortunate that at such a pivotal moment, a writer of Rebecca Giggs's calibre is here to capture every beautiful detail, every aching nuance. She is in a league of her own.'

-- Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

'Fathoms is a magnificent book, as grand and profound in its sweep as the whale itself. Rebecca Giggs is a brilliant writer - her prose packed with wonders and glittering with ideas.'

-- Philip Marsden, author of The Summer Isles

'Fathoms reads like a poem. Its virtuoso thinking is a revelation. I can't think of many books in which love for the world and uncompromising, ever-deepening rigour come together in this way. Time slows down. This book makes a permanent dent in the reader.'

-- Maria Tumarkin, author of Axiomatic

'Fathoms is a marvel: a glorious, prismatic, deeply affecting hymn to the beauty, majesty, and extremity of whales and the human imagining of them.'

-- James Bradley, author of Clade

'[A] lyrical, wide-ranging meditation on whales and their complex relationship with humanity ... Meticulously researched and full of fascinating information.'

-- Books+Publishing

'In Fathoms, Rebecca Giggs rips the metaphors off whales and brings us closer than we can usually get to the creatures themselves. Along the way, she shows us how intimately whales are shaping our lives, how they change air quality, and crime, and even our conception of time. I can't stop thinking about the connections she has unearthed, how a whale is connected to a meteor, a mother's breast, a landfill. Under the spell of her deliciously evocative prose, you get the sense that you are truly, finally, glimpsing a whale in full glory. Like the busks she writes about-tiny missives carved into whalebone corsets by sailors-this book leaves an imprint.'

-- Lulu Miller, author of Why Fish Don't Exist and co-founder of NPR's Invisibilia

'Seafaring scrutiny of whales, their oceanic environment, and the dangers to their survival ... Giggs presents ... scholarship in crisp, creatively written chapters addressing the many layers of the whale population's unique physiology and evolutionary history, sociality, above-water balletic athleticism, and enigmatic 'biophony' of their vocalisations. Most importantly, she analyses how their behaviour can be predictive for the Earth's future ... Giggs reiterates that the whale and its life, legacy, and precarious environmental state are reflective of the greater issues the Earth faces, from ecological upheaval to overconsumption. Whether describing the majesty of the blue whale or the human assault on sea ecology due to paper and plastic pollution, the author's prose is poetic, beautifully smooth, urgently readable, and eloquently informative. Her passion for whales leaps off the page, urging readers to care and-even more so-become involved in their protection and preservation. Throughout the book, the author's debut, she brilliantly exposes 'how regular human life seeped into the habitats of wildlife, and how wildlife returned back to us, the evidence of our obliviousness.' Refreshingly, she also reveals glimmers of hope regarding what whales can teach the human race about our capacity to ecologically coexist with the natural world. A thoughtful, ambitiously crafted appeal for the preservation of marine mammals.' STARRED REVIEW * Kirkus Reviews *

'Astonishing ... utterly original ... Fathomsis an attempt to interpret our contemporary moment - and in particular our relationship with the non-human world - through the glistening figure of the whale in all its myriad aspects ... The language of Fathoms has a remarkable, almost gothic intensity. The style is vivid and estranging and luridly compelling, full of weird lights and unexpected textures ... A remarkable literary event because it is a new and hugely ambitious kind of nature writing, verging on poetry. It is itself a whale cure, thrusting us into the dark intestine of the whale, among the indigestible plastics and other pollutants, the better to hear the conscience of tomorrow.'

-- Andrew Fuhrmann * The Monthly *

'In Fathoms, Rebecca Giggs unravels a powerful nonfiction narrative, masterfully blending history, philosophy and science.'

-- Dan Shaw * Happy Magazine *

'This book is nothing less than a small masterpiece. ... Rebecca Giggs' Fathoms - the world in the whale is a remarkable meditation on, nominally, whales, but through them the delicacy and intricacy of human relationships with the environment, and the history and legacy of our intimate and devastating impact upon ecosystems ... The book is a striking piece of narrative nonfiction, philosophical and personal at once wrestling with liminal vulnerabilities, fantasies, conceits and projections, and it deserves global attention.' 4.5 STARS -- Anna Westbrook * ArtsHub *

'Fathoms is horrific, poetic and profound; a morbid dirge shot through with celestial light. As well as being an extensively researched and deeply considered study, the book is also a wunderkammer of tales that illustrate the hot mess of human aggression, obliviousness and folly ... Fathoms is a vast book, the scale of which brings to mind the blue whale, anatomically mysterious and the largest creature to have lived. Giggs weaves together cosmological phenomena with their deep-sea reverberations to give us a book that feels universal.'

-- Justine Hyde * The Saturday Paper *

'With remarkable detective work, author Rebecca Giggs explores the habitats and migratory patterns of whales to reveal a great deal about them, and even more about us. It is a hauntingly beautiful examination of the moral force of animals, offering hope as well as despair.'

-- Jeff Maynard * Herald Sun *

'A work of bright and careful genius. Equal parts Rebecca Solnit and Annie Dillard, Giggs masterfully combines lush prose with conscientious history and boots-on-the-beach reporting. With Giggs leading us gently by the hand we dive down, and down, and down, into the dark core of the whale, which, she convincingly reveals, is also the guts of the world.'

-- Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails: an exploration

'Rebecca Giggs' Fathoms is a triumph, a deliciously rich work of art that, as if by magic, combines exquisite prose that floats off the page and into your heart with scientific accuracy and epic scope. This is by far the best book about whales I have ever read. What an achievement!'

-- Wendy Williams, author of The Language of Butterflies and New York Times bestseller The Horse: the epic history of our noble companion

'One of the most beautifully written nonfiction books I have read in a long time. It's so hard to do justice to the immense importance of whales and the lessons they have for us all. Rebecca Giggs does an extraordinary job of bringing together the science, the history, and the brilliance and fragility of whales.'

-- Christine Kenneally, author of The Invisible History of the Human Race

'Fathoms is a work of profound insight and wonder.'

* X-Press Magazine *

'The book is a masterpiece. I am astonished that it is Giggs's first, for it reads like the work of a far more experienced author ... Giggs's exquisite prose is so striking as to be almost poetic, pulling the reader up constantly, either to savour a particularly apposite phrase, or to ponder a deep, unexpected connection. If a whale warrants a pause, then Fathoms warrants many.'

-- Tim Flannery * The Australian *

'Lyrical, meditative and deeply researched, this gorgeous book by WA writer Rebecca Giggs is one to linger over.'

* The Weekend West *

'This is a heavy read, but a fascinating and vital one.'

-- Ellen Cregan * Kill Your Darlings *

'Fathoms is beautifully written, always aiming for the bigger picture: what it means to live in the world; and what it means to be enthralled by the world we live in and destroying it ... Fathoms is a glorious, beautiful and deeply important book.'

-- Magdalena Ball * Compulsive Reader *

'Truly remarkable ... Each page is full of wonder and revelation.'

-- Grey Kelly * Talking Heads Magazine *

'This is an unforgettable, meticulously researched work that examines the ways that we're all connected - with whales, with the, environment and each other.'

-- Eliza Henry-Jones * Organic Gardener Magazine *

'Meticulous research and stunning prose ... unique, introspective and poetic.'

-- Zoya Patel * Canberra Times *

'[A] moving homage to the whale ... A book that begins with obsequies for a whale ends by enlarging our knowledge of, and sense of wonder about, this magnificent species. It is non-fiction told with the vivacity and moral authority that was once reserved for fiction.'

* Australian Financial Review *

'Giggs' meticulous research is itself awesome. Every page has its breathtaking revelations ... For all this wondrous detail, the whale remains a lens through which to consider humanity's relationship with the environment ... Fathoms' exhilarating poetic language is richly allusive and orchestrated ... this marvellous work of haunted wonder ends with a fiercely unabashed vision of humanity moved 'from indecision to action', for whales, for love, for the world.'

-- Felicity Plunkett * Sydney Morning Herald *

'[A] delving, haunted and poetic debut. Giggs is worth reading for her spotlight observations and lyricism alone, but she also has an important message to deliver ... [S]he uses whales as invitations to consider everything else: the selfie-isation of environmentalism, the inherent worth of parasites, Jungian psychoanalysis, solar storms, whale songs records going multiplatinum and so much more. In the cascade of mini-essays that results, Giggs comes off as much as a cultural critic as a naturalist.'

-- Doug Bock Clark * The New York Times Book Review *

'There is much to marvel at here ... Deeply researched and deeply felt, Giggs' intricate investigation, beautifully revelatory and haunting, urges us to save the whales once again, and the oceans, and ourselves.' STARRED REVIEW * Booklist *

'In the whale, Giggs truly does find the world. She finds clues that unlock how humans have engaged nature - tales of greed, aggression, wonder, desperation, longing, nostalgia, love, curiosity and obsession. Her prose is luminous ... tracing humankind's continuing intersection with these alluring creatures, Giggs ultimately uncovers seeds of hope and, planting them in her fertile mind, cultivates a lush landscape that offers remarkable views of nature, humanity and how we might find a way forward together.' STARRED REVIEW * BookPage *

'Fathoms immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing.'

-- Stephen Sparks * Literary Hub *

'A profound meditation ... Giggs explores how whales have permeated our lives and the many ways we have invaded and transformed theirs. Each chapter orbits a different aspect of this long and fraught relationship - commodification, pollution, voyeurism, adoration, mythology - swerving wherever Giggs's extensive research and fervent curiosity take her ... Giggs's prose is fluid, sensuous, and lyrical. She has a poet's gift for startling and original imagery ... The lushness of her sentences and the intensity of her vision inspire frequent rereading - not for clarity, but for sheer pleasure and depth of meaning.'

-- Ferris Jabr * Los Angeles Review of Books *

'[W]idens the aperture of our attention with a literary style so stunning that the reader may forget to blink ... In a story that extends across several continents, Ms. Giggs marshals lapidary language to give the crisis a compelling voice. Her prose, like the oceans in which her subjects roam, is immersive; her sentences submerge us in a sea of sensations ... [M]ore descriptive than prescriptive concerning the plight of whales and, by implication, the health of the Earth. But as with George Orwell's Shooting an Elephant and E.B. White's Death of a Pig, Ms. Giggs, tending the final hours of a humpback on an Australian beach, reminds us that paying attention to the close of another creature's life can be its own form of moral instruction.'

-- Danny Heitman * The Wall Street Journal *

'Immersive ... Illustrating the interconnectedness of all life and the ways man's depredations travel from the smallest creatures to this largest of Earth's animals ... In lyrical language, Giggs leads readers on a journey through underwater cultures and the place of whales in the chain of life. Recommended for readers interested in nature, ecology, and environmentalism.'

-- Caren Nichter * Library Journal *

'A searching debut ... Giggs displays a keen awareness of what it means to write about a creature whose future is just as uncertain as our own.'

* The Nation *

'As well as being dazzlingly well researched and conveyed, the language in Fathoms is wonderful in that it never becomes sentimental and yet is thoroughly moving. Combining reportage, cultural criticism and poem as a call to action in the spirit of Rachel Carson, Giggs is an assured new voice in narrative nonfiction ... Gloriously, she presents whales as poets ... We need to be moved - therein the particular power of literature to expand the parameters of our compassion ... More prescient for its time than the author could have imagined.'

-- Abi Andrews * The Irish Times *

'Fathoms is brilliantly full of wonder.'

* The Economist *


* The New Yorker *

'Glorious and astounding.'

-- Robbie Arnott

'With distinctive prose, as philosophical as it is scientific, this is a challenging and illuminating portrait of the oceans' great cetaceans and what they mean to people.'

-- Helen Scales * BBC Wildlife Magazine *

'Beautiful and insightful.'

-- Padraic Fogarty * Sunday Independent *

'By looking at the largest of our mammalian cousins Rebecca Giggs returns us to ourselves. This vital and urgent book awakens our wonder and our fear. In dense language, rich in poetry and science, it fathoms a deep empathy for the living world.'

-- Antony Gormley

'Some of the most alive, inventive writing on the planet is nature writing, and Giggs' Fathoms is glorious proof. Ostentatious, mythic and strange, this is the kind of book that swallows you whole. Entirely fitting for its subject.'

-- Beejay Silcox * The Guardian *

'Fathoms is the result of years of research and contemplation: a cultural, historical and ecological exploration of whales and their place in human life and thought ... It is simply one of the most miraculous and illuminating accounts of animality I've come across. Read it, read the whole magnificent tome: you'll leave it filled with renewed awe for cetacean existence.'

-- Geordie Williamson * The Australian *

'A poetic and surprisingly wide-ranging blend of natural history, science and philosophy.'

-- Gemma Nisbet * The Weekend West Australian *

'This remarkable study of whales examines much more than the magnificent creatures of the deep. Through brilliant detective work, Giggs explores the habitats and migratory patterns of whales to reveal a great deal about them, and even more about the human impact on the oceans.'

* The Chronicle *

'Giggs's style is all the more impactful for its sparseness ... Her journey encompasses everything from whale-hunting ships in Japan to Loch Ness monster conspiracy theories in Scotland, with all of the disparate subjects deftly woven together by clipped, polished prose.'

-- Caroline Crampton * The Mail on Sunday *

'Wonder pours out of every page of this gorgeously written and daringly imagined book.'

-- Laura Miller * Slate *


-- Hannah James * Australian Geographic *

'A book like this shows the best of what reflective, creative non-fiction can do.'

-- Kate Evans * ABC Radio *

'Rebecca Giggs' enthralling Fathoms: the world in the whale presents whales as immense, enigmatic, intelligent and majestic sea creatures, but also vividly describes the intricate ecosystem of the vast oceans in which they live and die. Drawing from science, history, literature, art and mythology, Fathoms is both epic in scale and rich in detail about the life cycle of whales, their behaviours and sociality.'

-- Donna Lee Brien * The Conversation *

'Lyrical ... Facts like these are eye-opening. But the book shines most brightly in its poetry ... Giggs's writing has an old-fashioned lushness and elaborateness of thought ... its finest passages - and they are many - awaken a sense of wonder. That other lives as marvellous and mysterious as these still exist is, for the moment at least, a reason to celebrate.'

-- Richard Schiffman * The Washington Post *

'Like fine tapestry, strands unite into a coherent work of great beauty. Yes, this is a book about what whales mean to us, but it's also about how to interweave and admire cultural and biological stories, metaphors, and meanings.'

-- David George Haskell * Geographical Magazine *

'An incredibly wonderful book ... [Giggs] is a fabulous writer'

-- Brian Eno

'Giggs' work [Fathoms] ... on whales, climate change and pollution has been one of the most affecting [books] I've read in a while.'

-- Sophie Overett * The Courier-Mail *

'It's rare for whales to get what they deserve from our species, but Giggs' fascinating and poetic natural history starts to pay back a portion of an impossible debt.'

-- Christopher J. Preston * Geographical Magazine *

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