Beyond Mr. Darcy: Romantic Historical Fiction discussion

Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer
This topic is about Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer
Group Reads 2014 > May 2014: Ahab's Wife

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Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
A magnificent, vast, and enthralling saga, Sena Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife is a remarkable epic spanning a rich, eventful, and dramatic life. Inspired by a brief passage in Moby Dick, it is the story of Una, exiled as a child to live in a lighthouse, removed from the physical and emotional abuse of a religion-mad father. It is the romantic adventure of a young woman setting sail in a cabin boy's disguise to encounter darkness, wonder, and catastrophe; the story of a devoted wife who witnesses her husband's destruction by obsession and madness. Ultimately it is the powerful and moving story of a woman's triumph over tragedy and loss through her courage, creativity, and intelligence.

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Discussion Questions

1. Ahab's Wife takes place in the early nineteenth century. In what ways is Una's story a product of the times in which she lives? In what ways are her experiences timeless?

2. At the most painful time in her life, when she has lost her child and her mother, Una befriends Susan. Why is this relationship so important to Una? What is it that Susan teaches her? Compare and contrast their friendship to Una's friendship with Margaret Fuller.

3. Why do you think that three out of Una's four loves (Giles, Kit, and Ahab) go mad? Is this merely coincidence?

4. Early on in Una's life, her mother instructs her, "Accept the world, Una. It is what it is" (p. 29). Does she?

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
1. Some of the things that makes Una's story a product of the times she lives in include: slavery, women's suffrage, and whaling ships. The things that make the story timeless are: the love stories, mental illness, and a desire for adventure.

2. Something that struck me throughout the book is all of Una's friendships with other women, starting with Frannie then Susan and Margaret, and finally Mary. There seemed to be a strong desire to connect with women, especially after the male world of the whaling ship. It seems to me that the friendships with Susan and Frannie were more of a yearning for a younger sister to teach. The friendship with Margaret was a student-teacher relationship too with Una as the student. The friendship with Mary seemed to be a friendship of equals; two women bonding over their men lost at sea.

3. First of all, I think Giles, Kit, and Ahab were very unique, creative thinkers ahead of their time which can lead to mental illness as time goes on. I also think the traumatic experiences each of these men experienced at the hands of the sea left a mark on them psychologically. I think its more a matter of Una being drawn to unique thinkers and men of the sea than a matter of Una being drawn to wounded minds.

4. I don't think Una ever accepts the world as it is. It is what leads her to run away to sea disguised as a boy, what keeps her from turning Susan to the bounty hunters, and what makes her accepting of the relationship between the sculptor and the judge. She has a very open mind for her time and cannot just sit back and accept the way things are.

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