The Dolphin People, By Torsten Krol
Sunday 15 February 2009
The Dolphin People is a great big tidal wave of a book that will pick you up and whisk you along for the two or three days that it takes to read. You'll read it in bed, at breakfast and on the bus.
Erich, a 16-year-old German boy, leaves the ruins of Berlin with his mother and little brother in 1946, to join Uncle Klaus for a new life in Venezuela. A plane crash in the jungle deposits all four of them in the midst of the Yayomi tribe, who take them to be river dolphins in human form.
This is the set-up, which takes only a few pages to establish, and then things really start to happen. There is lust, love, violence, rivalry, sexual abnormality, danger from jungle creatures, as well as the increasingly hostile Yayomi. Alongside the exciting events that drive the story forward, there's the gradual revelation of the customs and morality of the Yayomi, as well as the secrets in the German characters' pasts. Torsten Krol has an almost limitless supply of surprises to spring, each of which puts everything that went before in a new light.
Particularly impressive is the way that first-person narrator Erich's style changes as the book progresses. At first he is naive and self-centered and says things such as "I thought it was a bit selfish of Mother to have a nervous breakdown just now", but events make him wiser, more sympathetic, more thoughtful – and the prose becomes richer to match. The Yayomi are as well-drawn and individualised as the Germans, and the series of climaxes with which the book ends will have you holding your breath.
There is a minor but fascinating genre including such books as Paul Theroux's The Mosquito Coast and Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible – and The Dolphin People is a distinguished addition to it.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 The jihadi girls who went to Syria weren't just radicalised by Isis — they were groomed
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
James Bond: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming 007 film Spectre
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'