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Voyage of the Narwhal (Basic) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

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

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Book Description

Mar 1999 Basic
Capturing a crucial moment in the history of exploration the mid-nineteenth century romance with the Arctic Andrea Barrett's compelling novel tells the story of a fateful expedition. Through the eyes of the ship's scholar-naturalist, Erasmus Darwin Wells, we encounter the ?Narwhal?'s crew, its commander, and the far-north culture of the Esquimaux. In counterpoint, we meet the women left behind in Philadelphia, explorers only in imagination. Together, those who travel and those who stay weave a web of myth and mystery, finally discovering what they had not sought, the secrets of their own hearts."
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 586 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786217510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786217519
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 14.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,605,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Grand, intelligent, wide-ranging work. With elegance and economy, she's pulled off a seemingly impossible feat: critiquing the complacent authority of the 19th century novel in a book that's just as much fun to read as an old-fashioned Victorian opus. " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian ice-bound travelogue 5 Jun 2001
By A Customer
The descriptions of the Arctic are chilling - I needed to wrap up warm! It has everything, travel, personalities, multiple love themes (not obtrusively slushy)and history. We read it in our book club and even those who don't usually read this type of book were impressed and hooked. Descriptions of ice-bound life on board ship, Eskimo encounters & failed sea voyages are all there.
If you like this, try: Tristan Jones 'An Odessy' (first navigation of Highest and Lowest water on earth i.e. Dead Sea and Lake Titicaca) - excellent. You'll end up reading ALL his books!
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  82 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful descriptions of Arctic life. Weak characterization 1 Mar 1999
By RAdams8553@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
This is about human endeavour and evil, initially set in the hostilities of the Arctic. The first 2/3 of the book is brilliantly written and researched. The semi-historic descriptions of an ill-fated exploration into the depths of the Arctic is fast-paced. Ms Barrett writes clearly and beautifully. I could envision life in that hostile locale, during all seasons; and almost wanted to be there, too. Normally, I am not a reader of such historic novels. She created excellent suspense, too. The last 1/3 revealed the author's weakness. Despite her extensive research into Esquimaux culture, the story plods to an end. I feel that this is due to her inability to develop characters convincingly. She describes events, geography, climate and "history" wonderfully. Much less convincing are the people central to the story. Most are either weak and without usual human passions, or purely evil. She had difficulty concluding the story that became somewhat ponderous, considering the writing skills well demonstrated at the beginning. Humans and their behavior are not her descriptive strength. I really recommend the book. It was a different reading experience for me. I re-read many paragraphs just to let the prose sink in. She understands and describes great beauty in it's many forms. Her knowledge of evil, fundamental to the story, is more conjectural. Very well done, none-the-less!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to Put Down (as a book and as a critic!) 21 Dec 2000
By E.S. Kraay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you've never read anything about arctic exploration in the 19th century, this book could be for you. "Voyage of the Narwhal" is a bona fide page turner that demands to be read in as few readings as possible; there never seems to be a convenient place to put the book aside 'until later.' I was always looking forward to the next page.
I knew little and had read even less about this fascinating era of exploration. This book has inspired me to search for more. I disagree with the criticisms of "weak characterizations:" I found the characters very intriguing. I learned to despise Zeke; side with Erasmus; and empathize with Alexa. The subordinate characters came across very well, also.
From a pure entertainment standpoint, I judge the success of a book based on whether or not I could visualize it on the big screen, and, if I could, would I enjoy it. Barrett painted a beautiful film with this book complete with breath-taking action and real live characters that I could see and feel.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, but... 2 Nov 2001
By Mark Wiklund - Published on Amazon.com
The Voyage is a 19th century story told with a 20th century sensibility and style. Written a hundred years ago, the hero would have been Voorhees, the explorer stranded in the arctic and returned a public hero. Instead, today's hero is the Naturalist Erasmus who sees Voorhees for a vain and arrogant fool but is uncomfortable in his own skin, who simmers inside about morality buts commits no action until the tide has turned, who resents the falseness of the world but will take no step to remedy it. Ned and Alexandra were the real heros (in either century!) but they are not the center. Written a hundred years ago, the story would have been a rich, swashbuckling yarn, but in today's style, it is lean and understated and ultimately disappointing. I so much wanted to walk away wow! It seems so many writers would rather we admire their artful minimalism than participate as equals in their real feelings!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Voyage of Discovery Serves as Exploration of Heart and Mind 14 Sep 1999
By michael jennings - Published on Amazon.com
The Voyage of the Narwhal offers a fascinating "inside-out" look at 19th century explorers and explorations. Andrea Barrett books passage for the reader on the Narwhal, a ship bound for the Arctic in search of a lost explorer and crew. This voyage of rescue and discovery becomes an occasion for the exploration of the hearts and minds of a variety of characters.
The true motivations of the commander of the Narwhal become all too apparant to the crew. The toll taken on their lives in order to satisfy his desire for fame under the guise of rescue and advancement of knowledge is truly heart rending. The complexity of reasons and motivations for the actions of the characters both on the search and those waiting at home illustrates the spectrum of shallowness and depth of human beings. The heart is truly deceitful, who can know it?
The novel continues to develop this theme upon the return home of the survivors. The public, hungry for excitment and news of the voyage, lacks discrimination and makes a hero and a goat of the two main characters. Truth is not what the public wants and adventure is the news of the moment. This climate is not conducive to thoughtful evaluation of the purpose and consequences of exploration and serves to fuel wonderlust and the opportunists who can exploit the moment for their own benefit. The novel raises the question of what is truly gained and lost in efforts of scientific inquiry.
The book can be seen as a revealing critique of the human cost of the advancement of knowledge by the unscrupulous as well as its impact on the people and culture of those being "studied." Much of what is justified on the altar of science, a worthy endeavor when approached with the right motives and principles, is shown to be less than worthy of the human race.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful, elegant page-turner 24 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
A fictional ship, The Narwhal, heads up to Greenland and the Canadian Artic to search for the remains of John Franklin and his crew. It is the mid-1800's. The civil war has not yet begun, and no one knows whether there is an open artic ocean. The story is narrated by Mr. Wells, the ship's naturalist and the commander's future brother-in-law. He is a flawed 19th century gentleman who struggles to reclaim his life and to understand what he has experienced.
This book is a page-turner in the best sense of the word. I stayed up late three nights in a row because I wanted to know what happened. More than that, I felt my own life slip away as I joined the crew of the Narwhal, so convincing was Barrett's portrayal. Isn't that why we read fiction? Perhaps one more reason: to see our world differently when we close the covers. This book satisfies that demand as well.
It is nourishing, thought-provoking and beautifully written. One of the best modern American novels in recent years.
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