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The Voyage of the Narwhal (1998)

por Andrea Barrett

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1,4643812,285 (3.89)162
An expedition by sea to the Arctic in 1885 to search for the explorer, John Franklin. The protagonists are two men from Philadelphia, the dynamic but foolhardy organizer and his companion, a naturalist who considers himself a loser. The loser lives, the dynamo dies. By the author of Ship Fever.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 38 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This is the story of a fictional 1855 expedition to the Arctic to search for a missing explorer who disappeared 10-years before. An expedition that will cost the lives of several men and change forever the lives of the others with guilt, anger and horror. Another way it can be described is that it is a story of scientific self-gratification and sheer hard-headed ambition. For more than half of the story the author pulls off an amazing feat of weaving the plot into a beautiful narrative that is filled with such vivid descriptions that the reader feels they are a part of the crew. Add the well-done suspense and you can almost cut it with a knife. Only in the novel's final pages does drama give way to moral dilemmas. There are two "heroes" in this story: Erasmus Wells, a middle-aged naturalist who hopes to use the voyage of the Narwhal for his own vindication. A way to try and forget, or at least to come to terms, with his experience on an earlier trip to the Arctic. Then there is Zechariah Voorhees who hopes to gain glory and fame as the commander of the Narwhal expedition. Never were there two men so different. Erasmus is shy, and cautious; Zeke is charismatic and impulsive. Erasmus is still mourning the death of the woman he loved, and sees himself as a loner...while Zeke, who is confident of the devotion of Lavinia, Erasmus' sister, comes across as what "bodice ripper" novels would call a "charming rake". Erasmus has promised Lavinia that he would "keep an eye" on Zeke, and make sure that he returns home safely. You know that was a promise that never should have passed his lips, since by the time the Narwhal had reached the polar waters, icebergs and shifting pack ice, was only the start of their troubles. The sled dogs had died of a mysterious illness...and one of the crew had died of lockjaw. The crew is split into feuding and sides have been firmly drawn... and Zeke had grown increasingly moody. He was anything but content with the information he had collected from the local Eskimos concerning the missing explorer; and he is determined to push ahead to try to reach, what he believes, to be an open ice-free polar sea. The last few chapters of the story... the until now well constructed plot...suddenly gives way to an overwhelming number of contrived events that seemed more a script for a Hollywood movie than to this novel. In spite of that, the story is still deserving of the 4.5-star rating. The author did an incredible job of conveying to the reader the indecisive role that chance and luck play in people's lives, as well as the raw, unpredictable, and unforgiving power of nature. Combined they help to produce a powerful and gripping novel that adventure enthusiasts will find intriguing. ( )
  Carol420 | Jan 22, 2024 |
When Zeke came back my heart sank - there was just no good that could come from him and his way of stealing all the happiness in a room for himself. I slammed the book down and walked away, and it took me three days to sufficiently nerve myself for whatever was to come.

When Dr. Boerhaave died my heart broke for him and also for Erasmus, who was just beginning to see the beauty of having a dear friend. When Erasmus got the letter from one of the doctor's other friends, and that friend called the doctor by his first name, I felt Erasmus's sadness and shame that his priceless friendship apparently hadn't even made it out of stage 1. Who among us hasn't been crushed by the knowledge that someone is more important to us than we are to them.

When the author described how the doctor's drowned head had washed up on the cliff below the men's camp, and that they simply didn't look over, nor did they hear the wind whistling across the jawbone, I gasped. The way that she showed us something that could have been life-altering for Erasmus but wasn't, how she played with going past coincidence into far-fetchedness BUT DIDN'T, was brilliant.

Wonderful wonderful wonderful book. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
The Voyage of the Narwhal is so schematic, with the standard revelations (the oppressed heroine has to break out of society's conventions in order to follow her artistic dreams) and standard poetic stretches. There's lots of nice details about the food and the tedium and the illness -- each of the characters is a little raft of tactile human misery -- but these human details are often swamped by the impersonal flood of Important Themes and Momentous Symbolism. There are sections where the writing is perfectly lovely and clean and spare; there are other spots where sentences threaten to buckle under the weight of abrupt epiphanies. ( )
  proustbot | Jun 19, 2023 |
A small expedition heads to the Arctic in search of Sir John Franklin. Overall the novel does a nice job of including the whole Arctic world of the mid 19th century — not just the actual expeditions, but the marketing and lecture tours of those expeditions before and afterward. And the novel moves quickly.

Maybe even too quickly. At times it feels almost like a summary of the novel, rather than the novel itself. Telling, not showing. This is particularly clear in the more grisly parts of the Arctic expedition — our author, maybe a little squeamishly, has the most sensationalist bits occur offstage and only reported secondhand.

In addition, the characters felt like stereotypes and never really developed. The central love affair in particular felt very forced and an afterthought. ( )
  theoldlove | Apr 12, 2023 |
Here's what I wrote in 2008 about this read: "Yikes, getting frozen into Artic waters in winter; haunting. Online reviews recalled more of the finer details; a well-told tale, and probably worth a re-read." Here's an descriptive description from New York Public Library's annotation (probably written by the publisher): "Barrett's explorers discover-as all explorers do-not what was always there and never needed discovering, but the state of their own souls." ( )
  MGADMJK | Sep 15, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 38 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Barrett's marvelous achievement is to have reimagined so graphically that cusp of time when Victorian certainty began to question whether it could encompass the world with its outward-bound enthusiasm alone -- when it started to glimpse the dark ballast beneath the iceberg's dazzling tip.
adicionada por jlelliott | editarThe New York Times, Annette Koback (Sep 13, 1998)
 
It's been a long time since an American novel appeared that's as stately and composed as Andrea Barrett's "The Voyage of the Narwhal," the fictional account of a 19th century Arctic expedition and its aftermath that doubles also as a meditation on the nature of adventure and the scientific mind. In "The Voyage of the Narwhal," she has shaped a compelling narrative around the golden age of Arctic exploration, written in the spirit, if not the length or the exact style, of a 19th century novel -- solid, unhurried, reflective and totally wedded to plot. Barrett tells her story through multiple voices -- Erasmus, Zeke, their colleagues, the crew and the women waiting patiently at home -- but "Voyage of the Narwhal" is her own creation, marvelously imagined and beautifully told. A first-rate novel and a welcome, old-fashioned read.
adicionada por unknown_zoso05 | editarSalon Books, Peter Kurth (Sep 8, 1998)
 
Like "Ship Fever," "Narwhal" showcases Ms. Barrett's gifts for extracting high drama from the complex world of science and natural history and for placing her characters in situations that reveal their fundamental natures. Indeed, "Narwhal" is an adventure story in the way that Conrad's "Lord Jim" and "The Nigger of the Narcissus" are adventure stories: the story's extreme conditions and harrowing experiences, which make for such gripping reading, are actually moral and spiritual tests that strip away the characters' public masks and expose their innermost drives and fears.
 

» Adicionar outros autores (5 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Andrea Barrettautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Chazaud, JacquesCartographerautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Eilsen, ReetKujundajaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Guidall, GeorgeNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Kaup, EnnFotograafautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Kisch, Marie-Anne deautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lagerspetz, HilleToimetajaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Nölle-Fischer, KarenTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Sligter, May vanTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Veski, SirjeTõlkijaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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An expedition by sea to the Arctic in 1885 to search for the explorer, John Franklin. The protagonists are two men from Philadelphia, the dynamic but foolhardy organizer and his companion, a naturalist who considers himself a loser. The loser lives, the dynamo dies. By the author of Ship Fever.

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