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In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  256 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
After more than a century of silence, the true story of one of history's most notorious mutinies is revealed in Joan Druett's riveting "nautical murder mystery" (USA Today). On May 25, 1841, the Massachusetts whaleship Sharon set out for the whaling ground of the northwestern Pacific. A year later, while most of the crew was out hunting, Captain Howes Norris was brutally m ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 4th 2004 by Algonquin Books (first published 2003)
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Mark Goodwin
Jan 23, 2016 Mark Goodwin rated it really liked it
A very good book describing the life of sailors aboard a whaling ship in the early 1800s.

It tells of the voyage of the Sharon and the incidents that occurred aboard her. To say that Captain Norris was a cruel and demanding Master, would be a huge understatement.

It is easy to understand the horrible voyage that was experienced by those who were unlucky enough to be part of her crew.
This true-life tale of a captain so harsh that he was murdered on his own ship had some interesting twists and turns, but the facts were more gripping than the writing. The account of everything after the ship's recapture was draggy, especially the repetitive lists of sailor desertions. I was almost happy to find that the last 60-some pages of its already short page count were appendixes and notes.

I'm also starting to think that it's against some nautical nonfiction code for an author to write a
Reet Champion
Nov 13, 2013 Reet Champion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In the Wake of Madness" is an informative look at the horrifying last voyage of the whaler Sharon. It starts out somewhat slow. I felt throughout much of the first part there was so little known about the story that the authoress was grasping at straws, attempting to supplement the story with other thing not entirely of interest to this reader. Yet, she makes up for this later on as the story picks up momentum. The story is told in superb prose so that the reader feels like they are there witne ...more
Richard Reece
Jan 21, 2016 Richard Reece rated it it was amazing
Not only one of the best accounts of a spectacular whaling voyage in the Age of Sail, but one of the best sea books I have ever read. If you have never read a "sea book", whether factual or fiction, I would recommend this one as a first read. It not only tells the disasterous story of the whale ship, Sharon, and her tyrannical Captain Norris from 1841-45, but gives a panoramic view of the period and context in which the story is set. Woven throughout is also an account of how Herman Melville's o ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Holly rated it liked it
I thought the book was good but ugh, every aspect of whaling was awful.
Feb 08, 2011 Lois rated it liked it
I'd give this book one more star if only it included some photos or illustrations of the whaling ships and/or people in it (particularly the captain), but this story of mutiny, cruelty and murder has held my interest.
May 22, 2016 emily rated it liked it
I'm a sucker for a whaling disaster book. Here's the actual comment from my husband: "I picked up that book at the library. I think you've read it before. It's some kind of whaling thing and a mutiny? You've totally read it."

This is my reality: I will read every damn book featuring whaling and mutinies.

I wish so much that Ms. Druett didn't incorporate Herman Melville -- who wasn't on the Sharon -- so repeatedly and intensely. Maybe that was her decision or maybe it was a suggestion from someone
In 1841, the whaleship Sharon left Fairhaven Massachusetts under the control of Captain Howes Norris. A year later, he was murdered by three Pacific Islanders (who had joined the crew after unprecedented desertions throughout the trip) while the rest of the crew were out whaling. The third mate launched a heroic rescue to re-take the ship from the Islanders, and although that dramatic experience was widely publicized, little was said a the time regarding the reasons behind the murder. Racism at ...more
This was a return at the library that caught my eye. I've always been interested in history, and more recently, maritime history about New England. In the Wake of Madness seemed like the intriguing story of a tragedy that befell a whaleship in the far Pacific Ocean.

The write up inside the cover suggested that this book would be the first to answer the question, what really happened the night the captain of the Sharon was killed, and who really were the murderers. I got hooked into the idea that
V.E. Ulett
Dec 04, 2013 V.E. Ulett rated it it was amazing
Part true crime narrative, part social exposé, In the Wake of Madness is also and most prominently a thoroughgoing history of whaling in the mid-nineteenth century. The economics, challenges, and hardships of life aboard a sailing vessel unfolds as author Druett follows the voyage of the whale ship Sharon into remote regions of the Pacific. The Sharon of Fairhaven, Massachusetts is captained by Howes Norris, a family man respected in his community. Ill fortune in the voyage when few whales are t ...more
Perrin Pring
In the Wake of Madness is a quick interesting read about not only the incident that happened on the Whaleship Sharon, but it's a good look at the history of the whaling industry of the first half of the 19th century.

In 1841, the captain of the Whaleship Sharon was murdered while in the waters of Polynesia. What followed was a daring re-capture of the ship by the third mate. America became enraptured with this cunning tale of American heroism over the Polynesian murders, but according to Druett,
Jun 01, 2013 Vorbis rated it liked it
It was hard to give this three stars rather than two, but again I'd be judging what happens in the story rather than the writing quality itself.

Seriously, I listened to this on audiobook, which means you can't skip the passages which descend into brutal detail about the systematic torture of his steward by the Captain of the ship Sharon. There was an almost mutiny about his treatment at the start, and then brutal reprisal, and then all the would be mutineers jumped ship leaving the Steward chain
Kevin A.
Aug 03, 2014 Kevin A. rated it it was ok
A great story poorly told. Perhaps not poorly, but certainly not told especially well. Druett lays on the foreshadowing with a trowel, and then the book continues to rattle on for dozens of pages following the climax (one might even argue the completion) of its tale. She tries, but she lacks a historian's judgment for providing context.

Which is too bad. When she's actually describing the action as it happened, the writing is clear and compelling.
Elizabeth Tremayne
Jun 03, 2016 Elizabeth Tremayne rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2016 Trenchologist rated it it was ok
Fast-paced, easy to read just as quickly. Heavy-handed use of particular device (when he did 'this,' little did he know 'the grim that' which awaited...). Ended abruptly after a brief tying up of ends synopsis. Still, handily fused telling the specific story of the Sharon with manageable, enriching details of life aboard a whaleboat, and nicely unspooled its reveal that very little was as it seemed.
Aug 04, 2012 Justina rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Another engrossing read about the travels and travails of whaling ships in the 19th century. This particular book follows the Sharon, lead by Captain Norris who lets his lack of success on one particular voyage drive him to brutality, which comes back to bite him. Interesting to read about whaling families on Martha's Vineyard (where I'm from!), and also interesting to read about Benjamin Clough from Maine, who later came to be considered the hero of the voyage, and who went on to lead a very pr ...more
Dan Walker
Nov 01, 2014 Dan Walker rated it liked it
Shelves: history, adventure
A very interesting adventure story. As I recall the author didn't spend much time discussing WHY the story was covered up so much until you get to the footnotes. That would have been as interesting to know as the original story.

A significant part of the book explores the parallels between the events on the "Sharon" and in Melville's "Moby Dick."

I'm not familiar with the author but I'm getting the feeling there is a huge market for "junior" historians - people who dig up obscure old adventure sto
Dec 14, 2010 Dave rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not bad, but I think it lost a lot of steam after the mutiny. What I did find interesting was that a disproportionate amount of insanity among sea captains existed in the era the author describes. How did this happen? One can speculate that

- Captains by their nature are a high strung, high intensity type guys

- The riches to be made from whaling led to the over harvesting of sperm whales. At the same time, you need to hire more people to sail, which dilutes the quality of the crews.

- It also mean
Ann Smith
Jul 14, 2016 Ann Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great adventure

I very much enjoyed this book for its authentic and masterful retelling of the whaling ship Sharon and her crew. There is insanity and heroism, and ports of call beyond description for their beauty and mysticism. I will recommend to readers of history of nautical adventures.
Jan 23, 2016 Fishface rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
An excellent read. The pace never lets up as disaster after disaster befalls the crew of the "Sharon." I was afraid this would be stuffy and dull, but it wasn't, not for a moment. The author lets the story tell itself without speculating too much on the whys and wherefores.
Jun 18, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it
An interesting tale full of fascinating side material from the excellent Joan Druett. Druett has a very good sense for telling details that give you the atmosphere, or bring the scene alive.
This is interesting, although I found myself waiting for hinted at-new information that would shed more light on these events. And waiting. And waiting.

But still a good yarn.
Aug 21, 2011 Josh rated it really liked it
The main story here is good. What also fascinated me was that at every port sailors deserted whaleships and at the same ports there were other American, European, and Polynesian sailors ready to take those jobs on board. This means that in the early 1800s, there were hundreds of men spending days, weeks, or months as "beachcombers" -- or years going native -- on islands I've heard of, plus Pohnpie, Rotumah, Banaba, etc.. It's the coolest, most romantic life I can think of, except for the little ...more
Daniel Olsen
Jul 18, 2015 Daniel Olsen rated it really liked it
Fascinating story. Appreciated the history and and storytelling. Learned a lot about the New England whaling life.
May 22, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew this book seemed familiar. Yes, I read it before but apparently forgot to add it to my list. Luckily, it's a pretty good book. This is a great account of the whale ship Sharon. A whaling expedition that went terribly wrong. A tyrant captain that in my opinion got what he deserved. I like that the book mostly concentrates on the actual voyage and doesn't spend to much time on the pre and post like some books do. If you enjoy maritime history this book is definitely something you want to ch ...more
Peter McCracken
Nov 07, 2011 Peter McCracken rated it liked it
I listened to an audio version; I would like to check the print version to see if there's information about the discovery of the journals that Joan Druett used to uncover the story. A lot of the book is not about the Sharon or its voyage, and some might feel it gets off-track as a result.

I found it a neat coincidence that I listened to the book on the exact date, some 169 years later, that the murder occurred.

Still, on the whole, I'm glad I chose to listen to this book on this past weekend's l
Mar 26, 2015 Dennis rated it did not like it
Great book with a boring finish
May 08, 2014 J. rated it really liked it
Larry DeFoor
Sep 06, 2014 Larry DeFoor rated it liked it
Interesting, but not captivating.
Gregory Flemming
Sep 19, 2013 Gregory Flemming rated it really liked it
Engaging, well-researched book about life aboard a New England whaling ship that saw the murder of a crewman by a horrific captain followed by the murder of the captain a few months later. Interesting details on the islands visited by American whaling ships in the Pacific and the frequency with which sailors deserted their vessels to live on these remote islands or seek passage on a different ship.
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Back in the year 1984, on the picture-poster tropical island of Rarotonga, I literally fell into whaling history when I tumbled into a grave. A great tree had been felled by a recent hurricane, exposing a gravestone that had been hidden for more than one and a half centuries. It was the memorial to a young whaling wife, who had sailed with her husband on the New Bedford ship Harrison in the year 1 ...more
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