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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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2,770992,116 (4.04)1 / 177
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

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Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999)

Recently added byprivate library, Booktrovert, bridgetmarkwood, KimSalyers, timwhale, ZooAskew, Petersons
  1. 51
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Cause this novel is based upon a passage from Mobi Dick......

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okay... so, this was an interesting read. a bit bloated and peculiar at moments, but interesting. i felt a little dubious a few times - the overlap of prominent historical figures, the issue of madness, the fates of the liberties, as examples - as these made things feel overdone. there are a lot of issues being addressed in this novel, and i am not totally convinced they all helped to make a great book. but, i did like the characters and settings jeter naslund created - she's quite evocative in her writing - and i actually found myself very taken by a few of the characters, to the point of wishing they had their own novels (susan, david poland, the judge, maria mitchell). i am a huge fan of Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (yes, even 'the whale parts'), and have had Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer on my shelf pretty much since its release, so i am glad i finally read it. it's a good complement to melville's work, if not just a little unfocused. ( )
  Booktrovert | Oct 18, 2016 |
Ooh, I liked this a lot. Beautiful prose. ( )
  barakahyentl | Sep 28, 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. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
Fascinating characters, oblique plot, but saved by superb prose. A definite recommendation. ( )
  zoegreenfeld | Sep 20, 2016 |
This book probably would appeal more to women than men. But I like a good story, especially a good historical fiction story. This is the story of a woman who grew up in the hills of Kentucky but because of domestic abuse issues, in her early teens she was sent to live with an aunt on an island who along with her husband and daughter maintained a lighthouse. She was happy there but she decides to disguise herself as a young boy and gets on a whaling boat as a cabin boy following 2 young men she knew while on the lighthouse island. To make a very long story short and not to add any spoilers she meets Ahab, ends up in Nantucket, eventually marrying Ahab.

This is a story when you get in the mind of a young woman and see her hopes and fears as she travels through her life. The book follows her starting in her early teens and ending with her being in her late 20's/early 30's. Like the waves on the seas the book starts slow and builds your interest to a crest and then goes through trough/crest over and over again as she takes on new challenges in her life.

The story smoothly transitions throughout the book for the most part but I felt the book was about 100 pages too long. The book wanes after she hears of Ahab's death... there is more story but you wonder at what the purpose is. Eventually she will talk to a survivor of Ahab's ship and that gives her closure I suppose but does little for the reader as of course, most of us know the story of Moby Dick.

Another awkward thing about the book is the beginning of the book which flashes fast forward to the death of her mother and meeting of runaway slave Susan but then goes back to her youth and an abusive father... from there the book proceeds logically. This beginning is very confusing to this reader at first.

The anti-climatic ending and confusing beginning were the reasons I gave the book a 4 star rating. Otherwise it is an excellent book to read. ( )
  Lynxear | Aug 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (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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