Two lonely Londoners bond over a plan to free the sea turtles at the city zoo in this touching novel from a cult-favorite author who has drawn comparisons to J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut.
A wise and touching classic that “crackles with witty detail, mordant intelligence and self-deprecating irony,” from the author of Riddley Walker (Time)
Life in a city can be atomizing, isolating. And it certainly is for William G. and Neaera H., the strangers at the center of Russell Hoban’s surprisingly heartwarming novel Turtle Diary.
William, a clerk at a used bookstore, lives in a rooming house after a divorce that has left him without home or family. Neaera is a successful writer of children’s books, who, in her own estimation, “looks like the sort of spinster who doesn’t keep cats and is not a vegetarian. Looks…like a man’s woman who hasn’t got a man.”
Entirely unknown to each other, they are both drawn to the turtle tank at the London Zoo with “minds full of turtle thoughts,” wondering how the turtles might be freed. And then comes the day when Neaera walks into William’s bookstore, and together they form an unlikely partnership to make what seemed a crazy dream become a reality.
About the Author
Russell Hoban (1925–2011) was the author of more than seventy books for children and adults. Hoban worked as a commercial artist and advertising copywriter before embarking on a career as a children’s author while in his early thirties. During the 1960s Hoban and his wife, Lillian, worked at a prodigious rate, producing as many as six books in a single year—many inspired by life with their own children—including six stories about Frances the badger, The Little Brute Family, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and The Sorely Trying Day (published by the New York Review Children’s Collection). Among Hoban’s novels for adults are Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker, The Bat Tattoo, and My Tango with Barbara Strozzi. He lived in London from 1968 until his death in December 2011.
Ed Park is a founding editor of The Believer and a former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement and the Poetry Foundation. His debut novel, Personal Days, was published in 2008 and was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is currently an editor at Penguin Press. He lives in New York City.
“It's this dissonance between the simple turtle story and the irresolvable adult story that makes Turtle Diary a quiet masterpiece.”
“It is an insightful and droll novel about mid-life discontents, entirely timely for the readers who grew up on his books and who now have children and crises of their own. Out of print for several years, this new edition of "Turtle Diary," with an introduction by Ed Parks, gives us a chance to discover a different Hoban – not the earlier children’s author and not the later fantasy novelist – and to be charmed by what’s in between.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“A story about the recovery of life...Like other cult writers—Salinger for instance, or Vonnegut—Hoban writes about ordinary people making life-affirming gestures in a world that threatens to dissolve in madness.”
“Crackles with witty detail, mordant intelligence and self-deprecating irony.”
“This wonderful, life-saving fantasy will place Russell Hoban where he has got to be—among the greatest, timeless novelists.”
—The Times (UK)
“The marvellous energy of Mr. Hoban's writing, simultaneously dry and passionate, justifies everything he does.”
—Times Educational Supplement
“Russell Hoban is our ur-novelist, a maverick voice that is like no other. He can take themes that seem too devastating for contemplation and turn them into allegories in which wry, sad humour is married to quite extraordinary powers of imagery and linguistic fertility that makes each book a linguistic departure.”