A short review of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

soulSoul of an octopus is an exploration into the question of consciousness and inter-species communication.

It is written by a scientist who pursues an intense commitment to answer questions about animal-human interaction, taking the octopus as her subject. Montgomery has chosen an animal many find frightening, even disgusting and in so doing she reveals how very misunderstood this highly intelligent creature is. Montgomery undertakes a study of aquarium octopuses and wild octopuses and shares stories told by their keepers, which include several ‘escape artist’ stories.

Octopuses’ have three hearts and several nervous systems, one basically running each limb. They can ‘taste’ everything in their surrounding environment through their skin, have been known to express behaviour which indicates recognition, attraction and aversion towards specific human individuals. Many who have spent any time with them are adamant that they have personalities.

The beauty of this book is the loyalty with which it is written. Montgomery discusses the sensitive areas involved in biological science; the issues of anthropomorphism, human intervention and its impacts on animal quality of life and how that may be measured. At the same time she is loyal to the depth of connection and expression that she and others experience.

This book is very sensitively written, to the point that the writing itself is simply lovely, as pleasurable and delightful as the content. I have recommended it to several readers who have all responded in the same way.  As a result of reading this book I am seriously considering getting my scuba diving ticket!

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