Books & Literature

Book Review: A Dolphin Called Jock, by Melody Horrill

NON-FICTION: The compelling, heart-warming story of how a traumatised young woman found peace through her friendship with an injured dolphin called Jock.

One of the most powerful memoirs you are likely to read that not only serves as a warning, but offers us hope.

CW: domestic violence

For many residents of Adelaide, the name Melody Horrill is most probably associated with the weather, having presented it for Channels 10 and 7 in the late ‘90s through to mid-2000s. Her bright and bubbly persona certainly enamoured her to many legions of fans who eagerly awaited her verdict on the following day’s forecast. She also presented many stories about her passion, the Port River dolphins, and helped raised awareness for their plight. It was hard to imagine the childhood of horror that Melody had to endure when seeing that smile, and it is not until reading this book you become more than acutely aware of the journey this remarkable woman has been on—one which would have tested the resolve of many individuals had they been subjected to it.

Horrill grew up in England with her abusive father and her, at times, negligent mother. When her father was not telling Melody how worthless she was, he was routinely beating his wife and Melody’s older siblings. Things did not improve when the Horrills moved to Adelaide in the mid-‘70s. Now young Melody not only had to endure her troubled life at home but constant bullying at school. In that time she found solace in books and in nature.

There is much more to this story that awaits the reader which includes a shocking attack, subsequent court case and suicide. This is not an easy read at all. Horrill tempers this telling of her childhood by introducing us to Jock: a playful dolphin she met on her first outing to the Port River with her professor, Dr Mike Bossley. The first two thirds of this book split each chapter meticulously between her studies on the river and her childhood memories. This is a skilful way to tell her story and possibly to remind the reader that despite the horrors of what she endured, she got through it.

Horrill writes in a beautiful style that just flows from sentence to sentence and pulls you in. Reading of the atrocities that young Melody had to endure makes one want to reach into the page and rescue her. It is also very hard to keep reminding yourself that this actually happened. Horrill’s ability to tell her story is reflective of her ability to report on an issue for the nightly news.

This is a haunting yet powerful book that also gives us hope that even when you are presented with life’s challenges you can be the better person and come out the other side of it.

This is also a warning that we must keep pressure on governments and industries to look after our dolphins; they are a precious and beautiful resource. They are intelligent creatures who sense much more of the world around them than we give them credit for. Horrill outlines her own activism which includes producing a full-length documentary that was aired around the world and the foundation she set up with Dr Bossley in order to highlight their plight to both the public and governments.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will sit with you long after you read the final page, and that is the aim of every author. In this respect, Horrill has succeeded spectacularly.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Published by: Allen and Unwin
Released: June 2022
RRP: $32.99

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