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Ahab's Wife, Or, The Star-gazer

A Novel

Naslund, Sena Jeter

(Book - 1999)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Ahab's Wife, Or, The Star-gazer
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"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last." This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature--along with "Call me Ishmael." Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe with a transcendent heroine at its center who will be every bit as memorable as Captain Ahab. Ahab''s Wife is a novel on a grand scale that can legitimately be called a masterpiece: beautifully written, filled with humanity and wisdom, rich in historical detail, authentic and evocative. Melville''s spirit informs every page of her tour de force. Una Spenser''s marriage to Captain Ahab is certainly a crucial element in the narrative of Ahab''s Wife, but the story covers vastly more territory. After a spellbinding opening scene, the tale flashes back to Una''s childhood in Kentucky; her idyllic adolescence with her aunt and uncle''s family at a lighthouse near New Bedford; her adventures disguised as a cabin boy on a whaling ship; her first marriage to a fellow survivor who descends into violent madness; courtship and marriage to Ahab; life as mother and a rich captain''s wife in Nantucket; involvement with Frederick Douglass; and a man who is in Nantucket researching his novel about his adventures on her ex-husband''s ship. Ahab''s Wife is a breathtaking, magnificent, and uplifting story of one woman''s spiritual journey, informed by the spirit of the greatest American novel, but taking it beyond tragedy to redemptive triumph. "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last." This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature--along with "Call me Ishmael." Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe with a transcendent heroine at its center who will be every bit as memorable as Captain Ahab.Ahab''s Wife is a novel on a grand scale that can legitimately be called a masterpiece: beautifully written, filled with humanity and wisdom, rich in historical detail, authentic and evocative. Melville''s spirit informs every page of her tour de force.Una Spenser''s marriage to Captain Ahab is certainly a crucial element in the narrative of Ahab''s Wife, but the story covers vastly more territory. After a spellbinding opening scene, the tale flashes back to Una''s childhood in Kentucky; her idyllic adolescence with her aunt and uncle''s family at a lighthouse near New Bedford; her adventures disguised as a cabin boy on a whaling ship; her first marriage to a fellow survivor who descends into violent madness; courtship and marriage to Ahab; life as mother and a rich captain''s wife in Nantucket; involvement with Frederick Douglass; and a man who is in Nantucket researching his novel about his adventures on her ex-husband''s ship.Ahab''s Wife is a breathtaking, magnificent, and uplifting story of one woman''s spiritual journey, informed by the spirit of the greatest American novel, but taking it beyond tragedy to redemptive triumph."Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last." This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature--along with "Call me Ishmael." Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe with a transcendent heroine at its center who will be every bit as memorable as Captain Ahab.Ahab''s Wife is a novel on a grand scale that can legitimately be called a masterpiece: beautifully written, filled with humanity and wisdom, rich in historical detail, authentic and evocative. Melville''s spirit informs every page of her tour de force.Una Spenser''s marriage to Captain Ahab is certainly a crucial element in the narrative of Ahab''s Wife, but the story covers vastly more territory. After a spellbinding opening scene, the tale flashes back to Una''s childhood in Kentucky; her idyllic adolescence with her aunt and uncle''s family at a lighthouse near New Bedford; her adventures disguised as a cabin boy on a whaling ship; her first marriage to a fellow survivor who descends into violent madness; courtship and marriage to Ahab; life as mother and a rich captain''s wife in Nantucket; involvement with Frederick Douglass; and a man who is in Nantucket researching his novel about his adventures on her ex-husband''s ship.Ahab''s Wife is a breathtaking, magnificent, and uplifting story of one woman''s spiritual journey, informed by the spirit of the greatest American novel, but taking it beyond tragedy to redemptive triumph.
Publisher: New York : William Morrow and Co., c1999
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0688171877
0060838744
9780060838744
Branch Call Number: FICTION NASLUND
Characteristics: xix, 668 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm
Additional Contributors: Melville, Herman (Moby Dick) 1819-1891
Alternate Title: Star-gazer
Ahab's wife

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From Library Staff

The adventures of Una Spenser who went to sea disguised as a cabin boy. Shipwrecked, she marries one of the survivors, then falls in love with Captain Ahab, a man obsessed with a white whale.


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A huge story spanning the life & times of Una, the wife of Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The saga of Una’s life includes her experiences growing up in a Nantucket lighthouse, her work as a cabin boy on Ahab’s ship, and finally her marriage to Ahab himself. The history of American whaling and slavery are interwoven into Una’s personal sorrows of widowhood and her encounters with such famous people as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. For readers who enjoy historical fiction told from a very personal point of view.

Jan 20, 2014
  • leivrl rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed the book and its descriptions of the whaling culture. I did think it could have used tighter editing, as some minor parts of the book seemed unconnected to the story.

Dec 05, 2013
  • miaone rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Ahab's Wife is possibly my favorite book of all times. I've read it and reread it and will no doubt read it several more times before I die. I can relate especially to the part that takes place in Kentucky, which is the land of my forebears. I found her descriptions, characters, and behavior completely believable.
The part of the book that takes place on Nantucket I really loved because of the strong Quaker influence on her. I have enjoyed knowing many Quaker friends in my life, and I love their values and deliberate ways of behaving. I found Naslund's characterization of Ahab to be believable; I felt like I knew him in person.
My review is getting long, so I'll just add that this fascinating main character of Una had many more parts of her life that drew me in and convinced me.
Yes, the sentences are often long; that's the way they wrote back in the mid-1800's, and she's being true to the time. Take your time, enjoy her descriptions and characters. They're well worth it.

May 09, 2013
  • missmellyg85 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I really liked this book. It was slow paced, but descriptive and adventurous. It didn't require the petty romance or obsession that is so common to books and stories nowdays. This book keeps you closely entwined as the main character weaves her story of loss and discovery.

Apr 25, 2010
  • alcia01 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

One of the better books that I've read recently - it's just a good story!

An interesting concept for a book; however, the story and characters fall short, despite its hefty 600 plus pages. The author's language is overdone and the main character's inner voice is not believable given the time period in which she resides. I do not recommend this book to anyone.

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app05 Version gurli Last updated 2014/12/09 10:52