Underwater Wild: My Octopus Teacher’s Extraordinary World

Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-358-66475-8
Divers Foster and Frylinck bring the waters that inspired Foster’s Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher to the page in this fascinating tour of the Great African Sea Forest near Cape Town. Primarily through captions to his photos, Foster writes of rediscovering his childhood passion for the creatures of the sea, and of his friendship with Frylinck as they dove together, wet-suit-free, to relearn “our original dance with the wild.” Frylinck studied animal tracking under Foster and relates how swept up in ocean life his teacher was (in particular when Foster bemoans a missed encounter with a great white shark), tracing how their friendship grew amid dives featuring frigid temperatures, crackling winds, and treacherous currents. Jane Goodall’s introduction offers the keystone sentiment—“The barriers between humans and animals are just illusion”—though Foster’s photographic essays (of cuttlefish, spotted gully sharks, pyjama catsharks, and red roman reef fish) and Frylinck’s diaristic prose are equally as illusory. The two story modes mesh together well for the most part, though the perspective shifts can feel jumpy at times. Still, Foster and Frylinck’s affectingly personal and delicate storytelling will sit deep with naturalists of the ocean and land alike. Agent: Rachel Neumann, Idea Architects. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 07/22/2021
Release date: 10/19/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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