Things were different, then: when Erasmus Darwin Wells set off for the arctic in May of 1855, he and his companions went off into the unknown. Then, the world was not charted as it is today: vast white spaces of ice were still vast white spaces on maps.
Andrea Barrett's remarkable fourth novel, The Voyage of the Narwhal, follows Erasmus on his journey of discovery--a journey that takes place both within and without him. This is a tale of adventure, but of a very uncommon kind. Barrett, a scientist who has turned her acute mind to the more fluid demands of fiction, has created in Erasmus an uncertain traveller. He is already 40 and afraid he has wasted his life: the men he sails alongside, including the expedition's dashing and reckless commander, Zeke Voorhees, are his juniors. Perhaps Wells has been moved to venture north to shadow the impulsive Zeke, a childhood companion who takes with him the heedless love of Erasmus's sister, Lavinia. Danger, romance, distance, loss: in some ways, Andrea Barrett's novel is old fashioned, an epithet she would probably relish. Yet in setting her book 150 years ago, Barrett has managed to shed a clear white light on present day dilemmas, such as the exploitation of the wilderness and that of native peoples. She provides no easy answers, but the questions she poses continue to fascinate long after the reader has closed her majestic book. --Erica Wagner
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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‘Among the most emotionally wrenching, subtle works of the century’