Book Reviews of Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer
ISBN-13: 9780688177850
ISBN-10: 0688177859
Publication Date: 10/1/2000
Pages: 688
Rating:
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 231

3.8 stars, based on 231 ratings
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

44 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 71 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
I read this book for a class I was taking at university: Gender Studies. One warning: you really should have read Moby Dick before reading this.

As an English major, I could go on and on, but I won't. That sort of textual critique is all well and good for scholars, but not for someone who wants to enjoy a good book

The novel is very well written, lyrical even. Having grown up on the east coast, I can tell that the author did a great deal of research into the habits, social culture, and whaling culture of the time. The problem is that for me it is perhaps a bit too beautiful.

It begins with the main character in labor, about to give birth to her first child. Soon events in her life lead her to begin a reverie in which she returns to her childhood (age 12) and reflects on the events which set her on the patch to her present situation. The book eventually ends up at a point past Ahab's death (I told you that you should have read Moby Dick first!).

During her childhood years, the adult storyteller is adding beautiful, reflective, spiritual, lyrical terms which a child wouldn't know. To me, it felt like there was no growth to the character, there was no change from the child at the beginning to the adult at the end. Always a deep thinker, always somehow able to get what she wanted. It just didn't ring true for me.

Warning: This is a *long* one....668 pages.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 162 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
I certainly liked this better than I liked Moby Dick, but that's not saying a heck of a lot... this book is much better than its inspiration. Una is a heroine who is a unique combination of strength and loner, and her story tells of the sort of life that many of us women wish we could live -- many adventures, many chapters to her life, all different and all rich in their own ways.

Although overly detailed in places, this is one heck of a good read.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 216 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This book is a wonderful story inspired by the book Moby Dick. You do not need to have read Moby Dick to enjoy this novel, it is a wonderful work of fiction that stands on its own. The writing is superb, and the characters very compelling. A must read for people who enjoy "literary fiction."

AFter reading this book, I also bought "The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex" wish is the true story of a boat sunk by a whale. This true adventure was the inspiration for the idea of Moby Dick. If you enjoy historical fiction, check this one out.

Both Ahabs Wife and the Sinking of the Whaleship Essex are part of my permanent collection.
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Helpful Score: 4
For the first time in my reading experience, I really FELT the ocean.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Engaging story of a fascinating heroine. A story of Nantucket, of whaling, of family. Incredibly written. I could not put it down.
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Helpful Score: 3
Having always been a fan of "Moby Dick", and living near some of the areas portrayed in this novel, I was very interested in reading this book. I'd have to say for the first half I could not put it down - I could picture Nantucket and New Bedford as the author described them during that time period, and I enjoyed that. I sort of lost interest towards the end - it was a good book, but not a great one.
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Helpful Score: 3
Very well written with wonderful descriptive language and presence. Dramatic adventure, "The daughter of a tyrannical father, Una leaves the violent Kentucky fronter for the peace of a New England lightouse island, where she...falls in love..."
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on
Helpful Score: 2
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.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 46 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This was one book I have read in the last few years where I actually felt like the main character was a good friend. A friend I did not want to leave..... or for the book to end.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on
Helpful Score: 2
Rich, lyrical writing and an interesting take on a familiar story. After awhile the writing style grew cumbersome (too much of a good thing?), but after a break for some "fluffy reading", I was able to wade through it. It's a great story.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 22 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was a fantastic read. I couldn't put it down and was dad to have it end. Makes you think about how people lived in another era.
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Helpful Score: 1
This was a fantastic read; Una is so much more than a whaling man's wife. The book,rich in language and imagery, never failed to hold my interest. There are great characters with such believable actions, and great detail which helped me to visualize everything the author was describing or depicting. I would recommend Ahab's Wife to anyone who enjoys reading.
I loved the book.
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Helpful Score: 1
Beautifully written. If you liked 'Red Tent', I predict you'd like this too.
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Helpful Score: 1
I don't usually find novels to be 'thought provoking' but this one certainly is. I'd recommend it to anyone who has a love/hate relationship with the sea, and admires a well written story.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An fictional narrative of the wife of Ahab, the backdrop is the whaling industry of New England and the society on Cape Cod. Wonderful detail without ever being tedious, this is a book for adults, but not anything like a soap opera or romance novel. I loved it and wouldn't part with my copy, but I have two.
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Helpful Score: 1
I had previously read "Abundance" by this author and don't recall being overly impressed, but this book was completely captivating. Easily one of my all time reads.
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Helpful Score: 1
This novel will touch you in a way that no other story will. "Beautifully written. Lyrical...alluring and wise." Los Angeles Times It is probably one of the very best books I have ever read!
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A long book with many characters that Una the main character comes across. It looked to me that the author put a 20th century woman's way of thinking into the Una 19th century setting. She addresses slavery, and many women's issues. Good book, would recommend if you like a character that is progressive
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on
Engrossing at times, slow-moving and dull at others. Generally, a very nice re-working of an over-worked tale.
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This book was quite good. I don't remember too much of Moby Dick but this was a good tale of Ahab's wife.And Ishmael appears at the end. Well written. Makes me want to head right to Nantucket.
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This book, set in mid-nineteenth century New England and inspired by Moby Dick, is a fascinating glimpse into the historical events and people of that era. I loved the main character, Una, for her adventurous spirit and unflinching spirit in the face of adversity. Naslund has created a memorable book that sets a high standard for heroines and the fictional history of antebellum America. That said, this book is truly a tome and requires some dedication to finish.
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A good story, good history lesson and hard to put down!
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on
highly recommended ...
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I read it awile back, so I do forget the details, but loved the story! Enjoy sailing the seas!
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Beautiful, lyical. I loved every moment of this book.
reviewed Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer on
I am sorry I have read it because I loved it so. Would love to read it again and I will down the line. Sena Naslund is a wonderful writer. Just finished Abundance and I could not put it down.
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Very discussable book for our book group.
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This was one of those books I hated to finish. Now I have to get Moby Dick, as I never read that!
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The dramatic story of Captain Ahab's wife, a fascinating woman hero in her own right. This is a drama you won't soon forget, well written and compelling. Great read. A New York Times Notable Book.
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The title character is daring and courageous. Author Naslund looks into the darkness of the human heart and reflects hope.
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this is one of the best...maybe the best book i ever read....just beautifully written:)
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WONDERFUL story of an amazing woman, and her life on and near the sea. LOVED this book.
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Took me a bit to get into this book. I don't generally read historical novels. But in the end, it was pretty interesting.
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The last paragraph is almost as good as the first. Didn't read anything in between, though.
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This seems like it's a good book, I just couldn't get into it.

A story of the life of Ahab's wife, told from her POV. I hope someone else will enjoy it!
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Finally finished this long massive story of Ahab's wife (666 pages). I've been reading this off and on for the past several weeks concurrently with some other books. This one seemed to take me forever to read -- not that it was boring, I just had to read it in small doses to get the full impact of the novel. Of course, this was the story of Ahab's wife (yes the Ahab from Moby Dick), Una, and what a tale it was! I hate to admit that I have never read MOBY DICK, but maybe this will motivate me to do so.


The story starts out with Una at her mother's cabin in Kentucky during a snow storm, while Ahab is out to sea. While there she gives birth to her first baby, Liberty, who dies before morning. She is assisted by a runaway slave, Susan, while her mother has gone to fetch a doctor resulting in her death in the frozen snow. Then the narrative switches to Una's life as a young girl where she stays at a lighthouse with her aunt and uncle and young cousin, Frannie. Later she decides to go to sea on a whaler dressed as a boy where an ensuing tragedy occurs that was apparently based on the real life events of the whale-ship Essex, the basis for the Moby Dick story. (I read In the Heart of the Sea which details this story several years ago). Una is stranded on a whale boat for several weeks along with some other shipmates and the methods taken to survive haunt Una throughout the rest of her life. She eventually weds Ahab and waits out his encounters with Moby Dick. Along the way she also meets several historic personages including Emerson, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglas, and others. And she gets involved in many of the issue of the day including women's rights, abolition, and transcendentalism.

Overall, I would recommend this one but I did like the first part of the novel better than the last third or so of it. In the last part of the book, it did get a little tedious as Una is waiting on the fate of Ahab and deciding what to do with the rest of her life. And, as I said, the book was long -- I think it could have been cut by a couple of hundred pages to make it flow better.
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Almost 700 pages, but I couldn't stop reading it. Very good book.

From the opening line -- "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last" -- you will know that you are in the hands of a master storyteller and in the company of a fascinating woman hero. Inspired by a brief passage in Moby-Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund has created an enthralling and compellingly readable saga, spanning a rich, eventful, and dramatic life. At once a family drama, a romantic adventure, and a portrait of a real and loving marriage, Ahab's Wife gives new perspective on the American experience.
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I tried to read it but it just wasn't my thing.
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I had no idea this book would be this good. Right from the opening sentences, the beauty of her phrases and lyrical descriptions of rising to meet life as it presents itself captured my attention and held me spellbound.in all the places as it unfolds From her early beginnings in the backwoods of America, to growing up on an island lighthouse during our country's whaling era, Una's story unfolds. As it deepens, we are thrown into the deepest depths of life as she faces horrifying times lost at sea and painful personal losses. Yet, always it is Una's uncommon sense bravery and eye for beholding beauty around her, that endears her story to us.
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Excellent read!
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This falls into the category of one of the better books that I've read, and I've been reading at least one book constantly for the last 57 years.
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Couldn't get thru it. Not my style of writing.
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Loved, loved, loved this book. Loved everything about it.
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National Bestseller
A NY Times Notable Book of the Year
One of Time Magazine's Five Best Novels of the Year