Tuesday, October 9, 2007

93. Ahab's Wife


By Sena Jeter Naslund
Rated: 4 Stars on First Half of book
2 1/2 Stars on Second Half


I really loved the first half of this book. At age 12, Una escapes her religiously obsessed father in rural Kentucky to live with relatives in a lighthouse off New Bedford, Mass. When she is 16 disguised as a boy she runs off to sea aboard a whaler, which sinks after being rammed by its quarry. Una and two young men who love her are the only survivors of a group set adrift in an open boat. This is all high drama, beautifully written and kept me happily turning pages in anticipation of what might come next.

Then comes the second half and it's my opinion the author decided that she wanted to write Great Literature after all and with less skill than confidence started stuffing everything she could think of into poor Una's head. Una's bigamous marriage to Ahab, the loss of her mother and her newborn son in one night, and her life as a rich woman in Nantucket are further developments in a plot that often lacked credibility. Una's skepticism about traditional religion, her ability to slip into and out of marriages with little or no thought, and her advocacy against slavery and women's rights gives her a larger than life personality with a solid 20th Century POV that is entirely out of place in this novel.

Additionally the author clutters up the book by including such real life figures as writer Margaret Fuller and astronomer Maria Mitchell, Frederick Douglas, and the poet Emerson to name a few. By the end of the book I was yawning and forcing myself to finish.
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