Ahab’s Oh-So-Perfect Wife

Well, now. I just finished my upcurrrent swim through the tome Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund. Set in the 1800s during the height of the whaling industry, the book examines slavery, and equity, love, and yes–whales. The book examines the notion that Ahab, of Moby Dick, had a wife who kept notes and eventually wrote a novel regarding her experiences before and after meeting Ahab.

It was a struggle to get through, and pedantic, and terribly perfect in ways that made it feel remote and unreal. I could never relate to Una, the novel’s protagonist. She is intact always, regardless of her struggles, regardless of the heartbreaks she endures (too easily endures, really). Lose a lover, lose a child…it’s a tragedy until she contemplates the stars and the sea, and all her grief becomes unrealistically poetic and she is just…her…just Una, the same, never changed. Perfect, always.

But one small thing I have to admit to: I am in the minority here. The book is celebrated. It’s comparisions to Moby Dick broad and loved. For me, (and if you know me–you know I’m not the sort to say this!) the best portions of the book are in the heart of the action scenes, the swashbuckling whale chases, the try-pots burning with whale blubber.

But just re-read Moby Dick. Skip this one.