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Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-gazer: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 19, 2009
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The Daughter of Union County
To save his heritage, he hides his daughter’s true identity—but he can’t protect her forever. Learn More
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Una, named for the heroine of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, flees to the New England coast from Kentucky to escape her father's puritanism and to pursue a more exalted life. She gets whaling out of her system early: going to sea at 16 disguised as a boy, Una has her ship sunk by her own monstrous whale, and survives a harrowing shipwreck:
I was so horrified by the whale's deliberate charge that I could not move. Then my own name flew up from below like a spear: "Una!" Giles' voice broke my trance, and I scrambled down the rigging. No sooner did my foot touch the deck than there was such a lurch that I fell to my face. I heard and felt the boards break below the waterline, the copper sheathing nothing but decorative foil. The whole ship shuddered. A death throe.The ship dies, but Una returns to land to pursue the life of the mind. The novel's opening line--"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last"--also diminishes Melville's hero in the broader scheme of things. Naslund exposes the reader to the unsung, real-life heroes of Melville's world, including Margaret Fuller and her Boston salon, and Nantucket astronomer Maria Mitchell. There is a chance meeting with a veiled Nathaniel Hawthorne in the woods, and throughout the novel the story brims with references to the giants of literature: Shakespeare, Goethe, Coleridge, Keats, and Wordsworth. Although her novel runs long at nearly 700 pages, Naslund has created an imaginative, entertaining, and very impressive work. --Ted Leventhal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you're looking for a quick read, best look elsewhere. If you love rich language, love strong female characters, love tales of the sea, then read this book. Ms. Naslund is to be congratulated for creating a truly memorable character and for allowing such a character to experience a full banquet of life experiences.
The story became far too absurd and yet took itself too seriously to revel in the absurdity. It reminded me a lot of the movie Forest Gump but at least Forest Gump appeared to have some self-awareness of how ridiculous all of the coincidences and star cameos where and by that awareness made them entertaining. The smorgasbord of famous literary figures, artists, renowned abolitionists, scientists, madmen, dwarfs, slaves, suffragists, sea captains and gays drown the story with the ridiculous. The story would have been better served with fewer exoticized characters that were more developed. The most interesting characters die off or fade from the story far too early.
My sister and I used to read a lot of romance novels and joke back and forth about the various carriage accidents, sudden deaths, and tragedies that would befall the poor main characters. This book was filled with so many and such varied calamities that I felt there was a great burden put on the character Una. She was just one woman, but she was forced to represent all woman who might possibly have lived in this time period and to suffer all of their losses and rejoice in all of their successes.Read more ›
Although the length is an issue this is still a fine novel which certainly packs a wallop and it surely begs a sequel.
A waste of time.
Taken sentence for sentence, almost all the writing is luscious. The author's love of "Moby-Dick", and her sharp-eyed fidelity to its setting, time, and characters, is evident throughout. Only during the brief part of the novel actually taking place on the Pequod does Naslund attempt to replicate Melville's voice, or rather several of his voices, in a sequence of chapters in the form of soliloquies and playlets. That effort is as successful as it is amusing, but the remaining, non-Pequod, passages are kinder on the syntax-challenged 21st century reader than Melville was.
I loved the accurate period detail, on quilting and cooking and lightouse keeping, on blubber rendering and religious factions. I enjoyed the way the story flowed effortlessly along, but left plenty of Easter eggs for the alert reader to find. (What is the model in "Moby-Dick" for the ship Sussex? Why do the castaways throw their raincatching cups away before they are rescued? Why does Giles ask Una for her earring on the Alba Albatross?)
The first two thirds of the book has a powerful narrative drive, with vivid characters, robust suspense and dire catastrophes; powerful enough that the momentum carried me through the doldrums of the last third of the book, which meanders, and reads less like a novel than like the diary entries of some pleasant, progressive young 1840s matron with a penchant for name dropping.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Superb book! Since I am a Unitarian Universalist minister (retired) this book was a great surprise because it describes our church and its theology/philosophy wonderfully. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Marjorie Montgomery
Very slow. Author has a tendency to ramble on and on. Need a condensed version.Published 1 month ago by Sandy
I read this book years ago, on of my all time favorite reads. Re reading again to suggest for my Book Club.Published 2 months ago by Sandy D
it is a typical story of a girl/woman that is constantly at battle with herself and those around her in regard to
story line is a little outrageous for the time it was... Read more
Enjoyable, interesting read. Loved the characters. Toward the end, it read more like a myth than a story in which I was immersed. Made me want to read Moby Dick.Published 3 months ago by ALWill Virginia
Excellent imagery, candor and flow of prose. Much info on lighthouses and of course the sea and its life. A salty read indeedPublished 3 months ago by Eireads