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The Voyage of the Narwhal [Paperback]

Andrea Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Mar 1999

A terrific tale of high endeavour and polar peril in the frozen north, and of the greater dangers that lie in wait in the seeming tranquillity of Civilization.

Intelligent, accessible literary fiction of the highest order. Superbly dramatic, the novel’s themes are entirely embodied in its action and its characters (no speeches, no authorial pronouncements).

Many an ambitious Victorian voyager was mesmerized northwards to the Pole and Zeke Voorhees, an irrepressible young man brought up on marine yarns, is one such. His own inherent magnetism gathers to him a ship’s crew as varied and as intriguing as the polar flora and fauna two of their number are so keen to observe as natural historians. Voorhees sets his ship’s course in the wake of Franklin’s infamous expedition in search of an Open Polar Sea, but the Narwhal soon runs into difficulties all its own. Meanwhile back home in a New England humming with new ideas, all is frustration for the women the brave explorers leave behind…

A terrific tale of high endeavour and polar peril that inverts Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow.

A brilliant portrait of a society obsessed with mapping and classifying everything under the sun – including the icy Arctic – where the
emancipation of women and the evolution of species are the next great revolutions just stirring into life; and where a man (but not a woman) becomes a man by being outward bound, an adventurer, an explorer; and where millions are eager to hear these heroes’ tales of peril on the seas, on the ice.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; ANZ Only Ed edition (1 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002258714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002258715
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,452,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Andrea Barrett lives in upstate New York. This is her fifth book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In A Cold Climate 7 Sep 2004
By Is
Andrea Barrett combines two 19th century themes in the restrained but tender "Voyage of the Narwhal": the story-telling drive of the Victorian novel and the discovery of new worlds, both scientific and geographical. The crew of The Narwhal sets out in 1854 to explore the Artic region. During their journey, relationships and power subtly shift among the crew as the expedition runs into difficulties.

Zeke, the debonair young captain has set sails looking for a boy's own adventure. His fellow officer Erasmus, the ship's botanist, is a much more introvert character, marked by disappointments in his private and professional life. These two men's contrasting outlooks provide the book with its centre of tension: In life, should we observe or should we act? A meeting with the native Inuit underlines this question, and makes the narrative gather pace after a more pensive first half.

Parallel to men's hardships in the Arctic, Barrett also follows the lives of the women left behind. Lavinia, Erasmus' sister and Zeke's fiancée, is only pining for her loved ones' return. Her companion Alexandra, on the other hand, feels confined by her traditional domestic role. Again, there's a dynamic between act/observe, but it's delicately handled and never becomes overly explicit.

On one page, Barrett remarks that the harsh climate of the Arctic makes everything grow in miniature: small but perfectly formed flowers and plants. The same goes for this book, which so carefully portrays the thawing of a frozen heart.
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