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The Voyage of the Narwhal Hardcover – 1 March 1999
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|Hardcover, 1 March 1999||
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- Publisher : Flamingo (1 March 1999)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0002257939
- ISBN-13 : 978-0002257930
- Customer Reviews:
From the Back Cover
The North Pole is magnetic. The uniqueness, the very weirdness of the wildlife that inhabits the Arctic has always fascinated the intrepid, those given to wonder, and those in search of glory.
Many a Victorian voyager was mesmerized northwards and the naturalist Erasmus Darwin Wells is one such. He is drawn to partake in an expedition led by Zeke Voorhees, an ebullient and ambitious young man, whose inherent magnetism gathers to him a ship's crew as varied and as intriguing as the polar flora and fauna Wells and his companion in natural history, Dr Boerhaave, are so keen to observe. Voorhees sets his ship's course in the wake of Sir John Franklin's infamous lost expedition in search of a Northwest Passage, but veers off on the trail of an Open Polar Sea, and the 'Narwhal' soon runs into difficulties all its own. Meanwhile, back home in an America humming with new ideas, all is frustration for women the brave explorers leave behind. Lavinia, Erasmus's sister, is lost, rudderless, without Zeke, the love of her life. Piloting this beleaguered companion of hers and stuck in a lull not to her liking is the brilliant but unsung Alexandra. When the mensfolk hobble home at last, carrying severe losses, all is flux – those who live by observing must now be observed, and those who live by exploring must now be discovered, with the aid of some Esquimaux wisdom. While the last remote corners of the globe are mapped, and the descent of man and the origin of species is being revealed, a group of men and women finds that truth and glory come only to those who are brave enough not to stand alone.
In this terrific tale of high endeavour and polar peril in the frozen north, and of the greater dangers that lie in wait for the unwary in the seeming tranquillity and order of civilization, Andrea Barrett shows through the unfolding lives and evolving understanding of a handful of flawed but compelling individuals how a new way of looking at the world – its distant origins, its present difficulties – cracked and roared into being a century ago to usher in our very own era of icy knowledge.
About the Author
Andrea Barrett lives in upstate New York. This is her fifth book, but her first to be published in the British Commonwealth.
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I won't explain the plot of the novel as it is in the description and others have already outlined it far better than I could. But I will address one of the complaints I've noticed in other reviews: Many people said that the "action" ends sooner than expected and that the last hundred or so pages of the book are lacking. I, personally, didn't have this issue. While it's true that the story extends beyond the voyage itself, I found the end of the book as compelling as the beginning and middle parts. In fact, I think for the main characters' storylines to come to a satisfying end, the last hundred pages (after the journey's conclusion) were necessary.
The author represented a woman's view of her life while her husband was at sea. She also gives a good account of life on ship - the hardships and what happens when the captain makes poor decisions. A really good read and
The book was not a particularly enthralling read. The writing is in simple, rigidly-structured sentences. Very reminiscent, in fact, of Bram Stoker's _Dracula_. The author makes mention in her notes at the end of the book that the myriad "diary entries" and "letters" and "journal entries" are a historical point; that much history was recorded in such items. However, because of the extensive use of these tools, the book takes on a tangled third-person viewpoint which, while not particularly confusing, dilutes the book. Many characters are developed, their plights learned, and their struggles fleshed out, but only as much as the rest of the characters and the book suffers for it.
Additionally, the book is reviewed and portrayed as an adventure saga. In that regard, it is over within the first 250 pages. The book simply drags on... and on... and on.
I think this would be an appropriate high school sophomore text, but is clearly not a book for a sophisticated reader looking for stimulating entertainment.
Perhaps the abridged audiobook would be more fulfilling. I gave the book three stars because two was simply too harsh a rating.