I recently read a statement by a biologist that he felt fortunate to study biology because it offered a break from the solipsism of being human. Before reading this (and I desperately wish I could find this article again and quote and cite to this bioligist correctly, but alas it is lost to Facebook scrolling), I had been unable to completely understand why it felt like such a mental health treat to read Sy Montgomery’s Soul of an Octopus.
The book sometimes feels a little self-focused and a little privileged – the author writes very urgently about whether or not she gets to touch an octopus or observe an octopus. But these moments were forgiven by me: first, because Montgomery’s kindness and empathy shine through, and second, because I felt wistful for a non-pandemic time when people’s biggest worries could be whether or not they would get to see an octopus on a deep-sea dive. I knew very little about octopuses and the other sea creatures described here before reading Montgomery’s book, so I felt like a learned a lot. My kids, on the other hand, seemed to already know a lot of what I found amazing. I’d bust into the room and ask: “Did you know Octopuses can change . . .” Only to be interrupted with: “Yeah, they can change colors, we saw that on Wild Kratts or something when we were 4.” But it was all still very exciting to me. I think I may have been lucky, as opposed to reviewers KimMiE” and Sophia, because I hadn’t seen My Octopus Teacher on Netflix before reading this and otherwise was very uneducated on cephalopods so more of the information was new to me. I now plan to watch My Octopus Teacher, so thank you, fellow Cannonball Readers!
Montgomery loves the creatures she studied and her love and respect are contagious. I enjoyed reading about the intelligence and awareness of creatures I knew so little about. A valid criticism reviewer KimMiE” outlines is that Montgomery doesn’t really question whether it is right to keep octopuses in captivity. I also would have liked for her to explore this.
Overall, I savored this book and found it provided a nice respite from quarantine life.