- Paperback: 688 pages
- Publisher: HarpPeren (October 3, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0688177859
- ISBN-13: 978-0688177850
- Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 574 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer: A Novel Paperback – October 3, 2000
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"An intense treat, powerfully written, Ahab's Wife is one of the best contemporary novels I have read in years." -- --Louise Erdrich
"Beautifully written. Lyrical...alluring and wise." -- --Los Angeles Times
"This is truly a grand...adventure story whose heroine survives on her intellect and courage." -- --Newsday
About the Author
Sena Jeter Naslund is a cofounder and program director of the Spalding University (Louisville) brief-residency MFA in Writing, where she edits The Louisville Review and Fleur-de-Lis Press. A winner of the Harper Lee Award and the Southeastern Library Association Fiction award, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, including Ahab's Wife, a finalist for the Orange Prize. She recently retired from her position as Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville.
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As you can probably surmise from the above, I didn't like it quite as much as I was hoping. Una Spenser is meant to be a one-of-a-kind, irrepressible heroine, but I found her maybe a little too special. She's not just lovely, smart, brave, resilient, passionate, and strong, she's also an object of desire for virtually every man she meets, treated with lavish kindness by almost every person of either gender that she comes across, and unfailingly tolerant and liberal in her attitudes. Which is just not very realistic, and leaves her ringing false as a character. While she certainly has to overcome obstacles (the aftermath of a horrific shipwreck, her treatment at the hands of her first husband, the loss of her first child, the death of her second husband), her only real "flaw" seems to be that she's too impulsive and headstrong, too daring. Which, of course, is presented as not much of a flaw at all.
I wish that Una was a better-drawn and more well-rounded character, because this book could have been quite lovely. Naslund's prose is definitely on the flowery side (if this turns you off, avoid this book at all costs because you will hate it), but I can get down with that if the story is compelling. The first half of the book had much more dramatic tension and excitement than the second half, which dragged in the long sections describing Una standing in the wind and gazing at the stars and/or sea, philosophizing about the world and her place in it. It's quite a lengthy novel at over 650 pages, and editing down some of the aforementioned mind-wandering-while-hair-blows-in-the-wind passages might make Una (and her story as a whole) a little more dynamic and interesting. That being said, I did enjoy reading it and thought it was a pretty good book. Just not quite as good as I wanted it to be.
Ahab's Wife deserves and I have given it 5 stars. The author has done a fabulous job of not only tying this novel into the Moby Dick universe; it is a marvelous novel standing all on its own. Her research is quite thorough and she does a grand job of putting us squarely in 1800s Nantucket a couple of decades before the Civil War. She did her homework on whaling in that era, also. Aside from protagonist Una's own personal journey, this is a ripping good read. A rich and powerful read, not to be missed.
There are some loose ends never resolved, though. Kit Sparrow disappears fairly early on in the novel, and though he is mentioned thereafter, we never get a resolution, and it feels to me as though there should have been one. He probably died; just about everyone else did. The story lines of dwarf David Poland and the slave Susan also are left unfinished. There is a foreshadowing in each of their cases late in the book, of something bad befalling the dwarf and possibly saving Susan and her mam from slavery, but they too are unresolved. It feels for all the world as if the author got tired of the story or ran out of time. Naslund is so good as making us care about her characters, that I'm sure I'm not the only one who wanted a resolution.
There, she should write a sequel.