Ahab’s Wife or, The Star Gazer
By: Sean Jeter Naslund
I finished this book on Tuesday night (January 5, 2010)—I originally started it on December 10, 2009. With over 600 pages of small print, this was not what I would consider a “quick read.”
My general feeling: I really enjoyed it. It was a very different kind of book, with an atypical narration. The narrator (Una) starts out by telling you some main things that happen down the road in her life and then reverts back to her childhood.
As far as character development goes, I feel that the author did a very good job of showing the reader early on what kind of person Una is and what we can come to expect from her. Una’s decisions throughout the book support the fact that she is a very anti-religious, spontaneous person who always follows her heart and seeks emotional and intellectual stimulation. She is also fearless—I mean utterly and completely fearless.
This is one aspect of her personality that I think draws the reader in the most. A person who is fearless might do almost anything. And indeed, Una does some very unexpected things throughout this book. But that’s what keeps it interesting. The reader is constantly wondering where she’ll end up next!
As far as the historical fiction aspect of this book (Captain Ahab – as in from Moby Dick), it’s in there, but it’s not only pertaining to Ahab. Ahab seems to be there in name mostly. The reader doesn’t meet him until well into the book, already understanding that Una is the narrator and will eventually become Ahab’s wife. We also encounter several Transcendentalists including Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the book touches on abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and that movement.
At times I thought that Una could be a bit snobbish—thinking that her intellect pursuits and decisions were far superior to others’ religious beliefs or lifestyle. She seemed to create a world of her own in which in which it seemed that everyone else sort of catered to her beliefs and wants. In fact, in some places I did find that things happened to work out just a little too easily for Una. She went through a lot, but somehow I felt she was always left unscathed, even unchanged.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I found that it took me to places out of the norm, which spurred questions and emotions I hadn’t anticipated. I was always eager to find out what was going to happen to Una next and how I was going to react. I would definitely recommend this book as a more in-depth novel, rather than a quick or easy read.