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

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  35 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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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
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.
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
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,
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
Titanic Buff
"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
Kevin A.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Fascinating story. Appreciated the history and and storytelling. Learned a lot about the New England whaling life.
Peter McCracken
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
Great book with a boring finish
Larry Defoor
Interesting, but not captivating.
Gregory Flemming
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.
A fascinating look at the ill-fated voyage of the whaleship Sharon. On the off chance that anyone has romanticized life on 19th century whaling ships, Druett makes clear the harsh conditions endured by all crewmembers--but especially those serving under sadistic captains, which weren't exactly few and far between, it seems. Clearly a time and place readers won't wish time travel to take them.
Jenny Brown
By far the best of all the books by Ms. Druett that I've read--and they are all good. This tale of a ill-fated whaleship and how its sadistic Captain was murdered by three Pacific Islanders he had been tormenting brings alive the world of whaling and most interestingly gives us a lot of information about the various ports of call they stopped in in the South Pacific.
Rachel Pollock
I've read most of Druett's books--this one is a bit more narrative in composition than her "women in the age of sail" books like Hen Frigates, which probably makes it a lot more appealing to a wider audience outside of maritime history buffs. Gruesome and disturbing, and i was ready to club the damn captain to death myself by the time he did meet his grisly end.
I've read a lot of Joan Druett's work but this is by far her best - in terms of taking the non-fiction research she does so well and transforming it into a page turner. This book just excels in providing information, simplifying it, making us see the ship in detail, and feeling the pressures aboard ship. I couldn't put it down.
Kim Godard
All I can say is I'm ever so glad I did not live in a time and place where shipping out on a whaleship was the thing to do. This book expertly pieces together diaries, letters, and logs to tell the horrific tales of life at sea in the first half of the nineteenth century.
This one just didn't grab me like Druett's "Island of the Lost" did. I tired of it and finally gave up.
I liked Island of the Lost much better as a tale, but this book is good if you're looking into the kind of excesses against the crew allowed a ship's captain.
Keri Jewel
I picked up this book during the time when Merritt and I were reading Moby dick> It was really interesting to read along with that.
Lacey English
I'm a sucker for historical novels. I found this interesting enough to finish, but not gripping enough that I couldn't put it down.
The ship they are talking about is one that Herman Mellville had contact with before he started writing. Very interesting.
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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
More about Joan Druett...
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