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

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer
perryfran avatar reviewed on + 942 more book reviews


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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