Lewis Carroll set his famous nonsense poems Jabberwocky (begun 1855) and The Hunting of the Snark (1876) on the same fictional island leaving many unanswered questions of how the two were connected. In Snark – Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock … and its tragic aftermath the finding of a long lost diary leads to a story far more mysterious and disturbing than anyone imagined.
Contents of the hatbox
The diary is found concealed in an antique hat box, part of the deceased estate of Gabriel Clutch, a notoriously unscrupulous book collector. Just why the book had been hidden away is not apparent until its shocking contents are revealed. It contains the notes and drawings of a young man known only as the Boots and is testament that the expedition to hunt the Snark so famously described in nonsense by Lewis Carroll, really occurred.
As the authenticity of such an outrageous claim is bound to be disputed the author presents the diary, transcribed and enlarged so readers may form their own opinions. A comprehensive notes section is included at the end documenting various theories on its contents.
Provisioning the ship
The journal itself begins with the enlistment of the Boots in Oxford and the expedition’s subsequent progress to a beach on the coast of the Bristol channel. The ineptness of the crew led by their equally incompetent captain, the Bellman, is soon evident.
An inauspicious start
Finally aboard their ship the hapless crew have little idea on how to sail her and soon find themselves drifting at the mercy of wind and tide.
There are also problems on board.
After many months at sea the expedition finally arrives at an island that appears promising and the adventurers set about their ill-fated quest. It is here that the Boots witnesses and records the events parodied by Lewis Carroll in his famous The Hunting of the Snark.
The hunt progresses haphazardly through the coastal valleys of the island finally coming to a sad and abrupt end with the unnerving disappearance of the Baker.
The Boots bravely sets out on a search for his friend making his way deeper and deeper into the island’s forested interior. Here he discovers disturbing evidence of previous occupation.
Here again the journal provides raw images that inspired Carroll, this time for his poem Jabberwocky
The Boots barely escapes the forest with his life and the relieved expedition sets sail for home …. only to find they are not alone.
The notes to the 42nd edition.
The author presents the results of his own research along with correspondence and opinion submitted by readers relating to the information revealed in the journal. Among the many theories gleaned from the Boot’s drawings and notes, one gains a certain currency – that of a voyage much further than one would have thought possible, to the far flung and exotic shores of Australasia.
A voyage in the 'antipathies'?
Snark won the Russell Clark Award for Illustration and the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It was also awarded a White Raven by the International Youth Library in Munich. In 2018 it is the New Zealand nomination in the illustration category for the IBBY Honour List.