Ahab's Wife: Book summary and reviews of Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

Ahab's Wife

Or, The Star-Gazer: A Novel

By Sena Jeter Naslund

Ahab's Wife
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  • Published in USA  Oct 1999,
    688 pages.

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Book Summary

"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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Excepting a few inconsequential false steps, a genuine epic of America: an inspired homage to one of our greatest writers that brilliantly reinterprets, and in many ways rivals, his masterpiece." - Kirkus Reviews.

"A complex and sophisticated book, brilliantly written, beautifully illustrated." - Booklist.

"This tour de force does not attain its model's literary genius, but nevertheless it is a whale of a read. Recommended for all fiction collections." - Library Journal.

"In the last third of the book, readers may become weary of Una's spiritual reflections and the minutiae of her daily routine. But these are small faults in a splendid novel that amply fulfills its ambitious purpose offering a sweeping, yet intimate picture of a remarkable woman who both typifies and transcends her times. Illustrations by Christopher Wormell." - Publishers Weekly.

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by robert naslund
hisroric feelings
From beginning to end, this novel is captivating..I sensed, as I read, a historical feeling, am I reading a novel or history?..What a story is told here!

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Author Information

Sena Jeter Naslund Author Biography

Photo: Marion Ettlinger

Sena Jeter Naslund was born in Birmingham, Alabama; her mother taught music and her father, who died when she was 15, was a doctor; she has two older brothers.  In high school she played cello with the Alabama Pops Orchestra. She won a music scholarship to the University of Alabama but turned it down in favor of studying writing at Birmingham-Southern College, while she was there she attended the Breadloaf Writers' Conference - a two week series of lectures, workshops and classes (since 1926, the conference has been held annually at the Breadloaf Inn, Middlebury, Vermont and claims to be the oldest writers' conference in the USA). 

After graduating from Birmingham-Southern, she was accepted at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa where she ...

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