Mary's Reviews > Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer

Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund
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's review
Mar 07, 2008

liked it
Recommended for: english majors, marine biologists,
Read in March, 2008

Whoa-finally finished this baby. Reading this is quite an investment in time; at least 1000 words could easily be sliced out to create a more coherent epic.

Word of warning; whenever you have a novel, based on an american classic (and an infamously difficult one at that) written by an english professor, you can expect literary symbolism to abound. In this case, I think the author gets caught up in her own cleverness; she throws everything but the kitchen sink at us.

Freedom or "Liberty" seem to be the main theme (three women give birth to babies they name Liberty-two die in infancy and the last is born into slavery-ironic coincidence?...I think not). This theme is explored through the historical issues of the time; slavery, religion, womens rights, sex and sexuality, marriage, madness and obsession, isolation and boredom.

Along the way our main character, disguised as a boy, sails on a whaling ship, is shipwrecked at sea, survives through cannibalism to later become the model of female domesticity as Ahab's wife while interacting with a host of real historical american figures, mostly from the world of literature and transcendentalism. Like I said, alot going on and I left quite a bit out.

For whatever reason, the main character Una,named after Spenser's character in the Fairie Queen (the virginal Una representing truth, or the true religion;only an english professor could come up with that one!) held my interest till all but the very end when I just really got tired of all the comings and goings and nonsensical ramblings. Like I said, a strong hand with the editing pen would have made this a better read. But if you keep that in mind and skim ruthlessly through some of the sillier stuff, it is an engaging adventure tale-sort of a female Huck Finn.

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