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Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-gazer: A…

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-gazer: A Novel (P.S.) (original 1999; edition 2009)

by Sena Jeter Naslund

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2,690922,205 (4.05)1 / 158
Title:Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-gazer: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Sena Jeter Naslund
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 704 pages

Work details

Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999)

  1. 41
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Cause this novel is based upon a passage from Mobi Dick......

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Terrific read ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Terrific read ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
This is just one of many rereads of this book for me and, as always, the rereads will continue. There's so much strength, beauty, and breath in the character of Una. I feel like this story submerges you completely within itself and you always come out a bit different on the other side. ( )
  lemotamant898 | Jan 18, 2016 |
This is just one of many rereads of this book for me and, as always, the rereads will continue. There's so much strength, beauty, and breath in the character of Una. I feel like this story submerges you completely within itself and you always come out a bit different on the other side. ( )
  motavant | Jan 17, 2016 |
Read during Summer 2003

A friend reccomended this as one of the best books she had read in the past few years and I think I agree. There does seem to be a tendency to throw in everything but the kitchen sink but the mixing of the fictional characters Naslund has created with the fictional characters of Moby Dick and the historical figures is magical. Una, the story teller and Ahab's Wife, lives a rather extraodinary life both in what she lives through and does. However, it never felt contrived to me. Some peripheral characters did seem unreal, I never quite believed in Charlotte and the small turn of fortune of Una investing in oil seemed uneeded but those as small quibbles. A wonderfully written and completely engrossing novel.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Naslund, the author of four previous books of fiction, is most successful here sentence to sentence, where her gift for pleasure shines. Her Una is a deep and wayward creature, undaunted by convention, whose descriptions are dense with a languid and sensual interest in the world. Unlike Ahab, Una can wait. She is not driven; for her, the world is enough.

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sena Jeter Naslundprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wormell, ChristopherIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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One must take off her fear like clothing; One must travel at night; This is the seeking after God. --Maureen Morehead, "In a Yellow Room"
In Token Of My Admiration and Affection This Book Is Inscribed To John C. Morrison
First words
Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.
A dart tipped with pleasure and feathered with pain passed through me.
How could I … become blind? What trajectory intended for me, determined by me, could include the subtracting of sight from the sense of me?
And I thought I would not tell… Though it left me a liar, it left me having placed a higher value on Charlotte’s happiness than on my own clean conscience. But was it not arrogance in me that made me think I knew best in the matter, that my hand at the stopcock had the wisdom to regulate the flow of truth?
Sometimes my mother and I stood and looked at our faces together in the oval mirror she had brought with her from the East. … Thus, elegantly framed, my mother and I made a double portrait of ourselves for memory, by looking in the mirror.
…I have ever feared the weathervane in me. Sometimes I point toward Independence, isolation. Sometimes I rotate – my back to Independence – and I need and want my friends, my family, with a force like a gale. … I do not count myself fickle, for I have much of loyalty in me, but I am changeable.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060838744, Paperback)

It has been said that one can see farther only by standing on the shoulders of giants. Ahab's Wife, Sena Naslund's epic work of historical fiction, honors that aphorism, using Herman Melville's Moby-Dick as looking glass into early-19th-century America. Through the eye of an outsider, a woman, she suggests that New England life was broader and richer than Melville's manly world of men, ships, and whales. This ambitious novel pays tribute to Melville, creating heroines from his lesser characters, and to America's literary heritage in general.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:47 -0400)

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A companion to Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick," in which Una Spenser tells the story of her life, and discusses her loving marriage to Captain Ahab before the white whale took his leg and drove him into madness.

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