The Sea Captain's Wife

The Sea Captain's Wife

by Beth Powning

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Overview

A gripping novel of love and adventure on the high seas that introduces an unforgettable young heroine.

Growing up on the Bay of Fundy in the 1860s, Azuba Galloway is determined to escape the confines of her town and live at sea. When she captures the heart of Captain Nathaniel Bradstock, she is sure her dreams are about to be realized, only to have pregnancy intervene. But when Azuba becomes embroiled in a scandal, Nathaniel must bring his young family abroad to save his reputation. Azuba gets her wish, but at what price?

Alone in a male world, and juggling the splendor of foreign ports with the terror of the open seas, Azuba must fight to keep her family together. Blending the high-tension drama of missed chances and unexpected twists of the sort that made A Reliable Wife a bestseller with the pluck and spirit of a heroine in the vein of Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Sea Captain's Wife will captivate readers and critics alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452296954
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/22/2011
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,015,037
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Beth Powning's debut novel The Hatbox Letters was a national bestseller in Canada and longlisted for IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her fiction has been published in a range of literary digests, and she is the author as well of the critically acclaimed nonfiction titles Home: Chronicle of a North Country Life and Shadow Child: an Apprenticeship in Love and Loss. She lives on a 300-acre farm near Sussex, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy with her husband, the sculptor Peter Powning.

Read an Excerpt

1. Noah’s Ark
 
It was the fifth year of her marriage, when her child, Carrie, was four years old. The bleeding began in the privy. Azuba wiped herself with a square of newspaper and found a red gout. She ripped newsprint from the nail. More blood came, thick, flecked with black strands. She mopped, mopped. She stood, bent with pain, settled her hoops, petticoat and skirt.
 
Wind snatched the door from her hand. She left it unhooked, gathered her cloak across her breast. The house loomed against a grey sky, the path a pale string in the headland grass.
 
Blood surged, trickled down her legs.
 
She began to run, one arm clasping her belly.
 
 
“Hush, now, could’ve been worse,” the midwife said. “You were only four months.”
 
She set a tin basin on the floor by Azuba’s bed, stooped and gathered the rags. “Baby’s gone, but there’ll be more bleeding. Stay still.”
 
Azuba lay flat on her back listening to the midwife’s steps going down the stairs. Mother was in the kitchen, feeding Carrie her supper. Soon the whole town would know.
 
Azuba Bradstock lost a child, people would murmur. Years before she’ll have another chance. The next time she went into the village, women would lower their voices, clasp her wrist, touch her shoulder. Such a pity.
 
She rolled her head sideways to gaze at the candle flame.
 
Nathaniel. Oh, Nathaniel, my beloved.
 
She pictured her husband reading the letter she had recently sent. Perhaps he’d been in Cape Town, where he’d planned to stop for provisions. There he sits, she thought, at the rolltop desk in Traveller’s saloon, holding the letter over a mess of business papers. She pictured his fingers smoothing his moustache, wide mouth bent downward, studying her words. His eyes lighten, he smiles. He reads the letter again. Then he folds it, tucks it into its envelope. Presses it to his heart.
 
 
February 6, 1861
Whelan’s Cove, New Brunswick
 
Dear Nathaniel,
I am with child. Carrie is excited to think she will have a brother or a sister. Oh my darling, if only you could be home for this child’s birth.
 
 
Nathaniel had left six months after their wedding, and had been at sea when Carrie was born. Once he received news that he had become a father, he’d written to say that he’d be home as soon as possible. One thing, though, had led to another: a cargo of coal to Bombay; a long delay in port; a consignment across the Pacific. His letters became increasingly frustrated. Carrie had been a sturdy little girl of almost three when he’d finally arrived home.
 
Azuba thought of the tiny nightgown in her workbox. It was a smocked nainsook, embroidered with a red rose, its stem unfinished. Her needle, piercing the fabric. Carrie’s finger, tracing it.
 
“May I name the baby, Mama?”
 
The candle flame licked the air, blue at its base.
 
Azuba watched it through tears. She felt the heartbreak of motherhood— sorrow, now, not only for herself and Nathaniel, but for Carrie.
 
Ah, the day he left. He had been home for a one-year furlough and had left again just after Christmas. He’d carved Carrie a Noah’s ark with all the animals and, before leaving, had clasped her to his chest, gruff voice in her hair and a rare tear glistening in his eye.
 
“I’ll be home soon,” he’d said to her. “Don’t worry.”
 
There Carrie had stood, waving to her father going out to his ship in a rowboat. Returning home in the carriage, she’d knelt to look back down the bay, too stunned to cry. And then, when they returned to the house, she had climbed onto his chair and made herself into a ball, pressing her face to the brocade, refusing to speak, eat or be comforted. For days afterward she had stood at the bow window, staring out over the headland pasture, asking for Papa. Expecting to see his sails, coming home.
 
And that night of his leave-taking. How I took his coat from the closet. She’d sat on the bed with her face buried in its black wool, breathing its smell of tobacco and cold air. And realized that her love for him had no expression now other than in words— scrawled or read.
 
Now she cried herself to exhaustion and lay staring at the ceiling. She longed to tell Nathaniel. Her shock, stumbling over the field. Her hired man, Slason, hurrying to the barn. How she’d waited, moaning, while the carriage went for her mother and the midwife. She longed to be held in his arms, to feel his hand on her forehead, smoothing, consoling. To feel the bitter comfort of shared loss.
 
Despair, she thought, was the inability to imagine. She pictured the nightgown she had been embroidering. The names she had thought to bestow on the new child.
 
I have no reason to despair.
 
The bedroom had two bow windows overlooking the Bay of Fundy with its spruce-cragged cliffs. At the age of nineteen, she had married Nathaniel Bradstock, who at twenty-eight was a seasoned captain. Her father had given them the house as a wedding gift, hiding it beneath a scaffolding strung with sails as it was being built. A big house meant to be filled with dogs, toys, music, guests, family. He had set the house high on a headland, fit for a sea captain’s wife, where Azuba could look down at Whelan’s Cove with its shipyards, hulls looming higher than the rooftops, gulls circling in clouds of sawdust; its harbour, crowded with fishing boats, coastal schooners, sloops— and farther out, in the deeper water, square-rigged merchant ships with their forest of masts and rigging. One of which might, on occasion, be Nathaniel’s Traveller.
 
She could look down at the farmstead of her childhood, set within fields of oats and buckwheat, and the ribbon of shore road. She could see the salt marsh where, as a child, she had run with her older brothers, Benjamin and William, and the dunes where compass grass scratched half-moons in the sand. She could see the beach where they’d chased stiltlegged sandpipers, jumped the ropes of froth, watched ships beating up the bay with billowed, patched sails.
 
She pictured herself as a child— dark-haired, impetuous, with black eyes, different from her fair-skinned cousins— and felt pity for her hope. Her innocence.
 
I thought I would sail away on one of those ships. Married to a sea captain. I’d be Mrs. Shaw, with her red-headed parrot.
 
Her days, now: as they would unfold tomorrow, and next week, and next month. She saw herself working with her hired girl, Hannah— planting, weeding, scrubbing— her own hair pinned back, sleeves rolled, scissors and knives jingling in the deep pockets of her wash dress. How she made her choice to work from the wearisomeness of its alternative: tea parties, visits, carriage rides. She pictured Slason, with his crooked leg and loose-lipped mouth. He tended the pigs, the horse, the cow. His voice, submissive. What do you need, Mrs. Bradstock? And the violent headland winds, different from the winds of her childhood. Clothes on the line, twisted into knots. Doors, pulled from her hand. Often, she paused on the porch and looked out at the blue line of Nova Scotia and the silver gleam in the southwest where the bay widened to the Gulf of Maine: the sea spread before her, thundered in her ears; and sometimes she loathed it, since Nathaniel was at its mercy. At other times, she closed her eyes, tossed back her bonnet and breathed deep of the world’s size.
 
Azuba drew up her knees, rocking from the ache in her womb, thinking of Carrie.
 
No brother. No sister.
 
The May wind blew onshore and there was a spring tide. Carrie was at her granny’s for the day.
 
Azuba sat in an armless chair, a Paisley shawl concealing the opening at the back of her dress; she had left her corset loosely knotted. She wore a brown dress with purple piping. Her black hair was unwashed, parted in the middle, caught up in a net at her neck. Beneath her eyes were blue shadows. After four days, she still felt a low cramp in her womb.
 
The new Anglican minister, Reverend Walton, had come to visit. He had heard she was unwell, but would not speak of the reason. He sat upright, his ankles crossed and his arms laid precisely along the chair’s carved arms. He was a slight, mild man, easily moulded by the parish women.
 
She and Nathaniel had paid a call at the parsonage when he had first arrived. He’d shown them his studio, a large room at the back of the house with an easel, drawing books and a table beneath a window littered with treasures he’d collected along the shore— feathers, shells, skulls.
 
Even when he’s old, she thought, he’ll still look eager, innocent.
 
Sunlight streamed through the windows, lit the carpet-draped table with its oil lamp and leather books; a japanned china cabinet; a pump organ.
 
“It’s a beautiful house, Mrs. Bradstock,” he said.
 
His composure was disarming and she felt an impulse to tell him her real feelings about the house. How, when her father had told her he would build it, she’d exclaimed, “No, no, we won’t need . . .” And then had paused. Mother had looked up from her sewing, shocked, her face revealing all she hoped for in a married daughter: help, companionship, grandchildren. Father’s smile paled. “What did you say, Azuba?” His voice was awry, like Mother’s face, its tone incredulous. He’d laid down his pen slowly, his eyes had narrowed, and she had been caught by his prescient gaze. She saw that her intention to go to sea with her captain husband was so far from her parents’ expectations that her words were like a foreign language. And she had not dared refuse the house, or announce her plan. A house, she’d thought. Only a house. “I meant that you needn’t do so much for me,” she’d amended. “Thank you, Father. We would be grateful for such a gift.”
 
Or how, on the day of their wedding, in the midst of an October gale, she and Nathaniel and most of the villagers had gone up the headland road in horse-drawn carriages. Father had lifted his arm, men had slashed the ropes, and the sails had fallen from the scaffolding, revealing a large white house that would forever be known as “the sail house.” It had gingerbread shingles, a porch and steep gables. In their enthusiasm, the men had cut the ropes tethering the sails and the canvas had risen like monstrous, demented gulls, flapping towards the horses. Drivers had stood, shouting, hauling on reins. Nathaniel had jumped from the carriage, seized their horse by the bridle, growling “Whoa! Whoa!” even as he stared up at the newly minted house with a complex expression—surprise, affront and then a dawning comprehension.
 
At that moment, she realized later, Nathaniel had glimpsed the implications of taking her to sea: the danger to her, the anguish of those left behind. Perhaps when the sails fell from the house, Nathaniel’s mind had shifted like ballast throwing a ship off true. A place he could safely leave me. She wondered if her father might have hoped for such an outcome.
 
“My father built it as a wedding gift, as you know.”
 
Reverend Walton leaned forward, picked a dead leaf from his pants. “It must be a comfort to you to have such a house.”
 
He was studying the leaf, and she saw that he was unsure of his boundaries, as a minister and as a man.
 
She pressed her folded hands to the ache in her belly. She felt an upwelling of longing to be sharing the loss of the baby with Nathaniel, and it was borne upon her that she must learn to fold waiting into living, like a kind of stillness within motion.
 
It is the nearness, she thought, of his last visit. Only four months since he’d left. And then this loss. It made his absence more unbearable. And she wondered if the pain of parting, over the years, would increase rather than diminish.
 
She must begin again her work of maintaining love. Keeping Nathaniel alive in her memory, and now in Carrie’s. Reminding the child how he carved the tiny animals, one eye squinted, critical; or knelt on the rug with his muscled thighs, being a horse for Carrie. His lovely baritone voice singing Irish ballads. And her own, private memories: silky flesh, his hands cradling her face, the way he lifted her shawl from the floor and tucked it around her. And to compose in her mind an imagined life that dexterously shrunk the years he was away and expanded the time he was home.
 
She began speaking nervously, as if confessing. “You know, Reverend Walton, I married for love. I wanted to be with my husband. I thought that I would go to sea with him. I’ve always wanted to sail; I still do. I’ve always wanted to travel, to see the world.” She gestured at the window.
 
It came in a rush.
 
“I thought we would be a seafaring family, like so many others. Did you know that Captain Shaw delivered all three of their children at sea? They had a pet billy goat on board. Captain Shaw made a little cart for it. The children had a full-rigged model ship that they towed in the wake of their ship. Mrs. Shaw hung her wash in the rigging. She saw Buckingham Palace. The children rode on elephants.”
 
Reverend Walton tightened his arms to his sides as she spoke. His eyes slid to the clawed feet of the organ stool. He brushed hair from his forehead, as one would a fly.
 
“Well,” he said, after a silence. “Could you not? Go with him?”
 
“He changed his mind.”
 
When Nathaniel had first bent his eyes on her, she had felt a heat in her chest, fear mixed with elation. She had felt light as the wind, and as formless. Oh, and I asked him, Will I come with you, on Traveller? Yes, he said. He took me by the elbows and studied my resolve. Yes, he said, I could not bear to leave you.
 
Reverend Walton appeared agitated by her tone. His eyes flew to the window and remained there. “It would be a life filled with peril,” he ventured. “For you and the children.”
 
“I’m sorry,” Azuba said. “I shouldn’t . . . I’m not myself.”
 
The minister rose. “Mrs. Bradstock, please.” He stepped forward, took her hand, held it for an instant before shaking it. “I’ve tired you. Please come visit the parsonage. Bring your daughter. I’ll show her my collection.”
 
After he had seen himself out, Azuba rose and sought her sewing box. She sat on the horsehair sofa, lifted out a bundle of Nathaniel’s letters tied with blue satin ribbon.
 
 
My dearest Azuba,
I am at lat. 35 11,’ long. W. 126, in the vicinity of Pitcairn Island. We are in the S.E. trades and the weather has been beautiful.
 
 
She skimmed through the letters, seeking words.
 
Love. Sweet. My dear wife. Home, soon. Our wedding. Wish that I. Forever.
 
Azuba dropped the letter into the sewing box and replaced the lid. It was her secret, what she had told Reverend Walton. Everyone assumed her contentment. There was not a girl in the village who would not have married Nathaniel Bradstock. Sea captains’ wives were envied, whether they sailed with their husbands or not. Nathaniel was the youngest of three boys, all sea captains. When he was twelve years old, he had served as cabin boy on his oldest brother’s ship; at fourteen, he was sent away to the academy in Sackville. And was a second mate at nineteen. The Bradstock brothers, Nathaniel included, were renowned for their hard-driven voyages, extravagant items brought or shipped home, adventures spiced with rumours of ruthlessness. Their parents gave balls and dinners to celebrate their infrequent visits.
 
Azuba thought of her plaid silk wedding dress, hanging in her bedroom closet. Green and purple, with a shimmer of gold thread.
 
 
The following week, Azuba and Carrie drove to visit Azuba’s grandmother, Grammy Cooper. Slason offered to drive, but Azuba refused. She loved to collect the mare’s energy, tightening the reins, snapping the whip. And it was only five miles, through the village, up along the needle-softened road.
 
Far below, Whelan’s Cove was like a toy village, and off to the west, Grand Manan spliced the silver sea.
 
“I loved to come here when I was little,” Azuba said. Carrie sat straight-backed with excitement. She held her doll, Jojo, face-forward to see the view.
 
They turned down the lane. Budding hardwoods held the light tenderly. Half-wild cats slithered away beneath the barn. Grammy was stumping lopsided towards the house. She clutched a bunch of parsnips by their tops.
 
“Come along in,” she called. She waved her cane.
 
Azuba unhitched the mare, led her to the barn. Carrie squatted by the sill making chirping noises for the cats.
 
They crossed the hen-scratched earth. The poplar leaves funnelled the wind with a soft roar. They went up the wooden steps, holding their skirts.
 
The house was placid, vital: knitting needles spiked a sweater; carded wool was piled by the spinning wheel. Geraniums lined the windowsills. By the stove was a pail, a bucket of potatoes and a narrow, high-sided cradle.
 
Carrie took her doll to the cradle. It had been Grammy’s as an infant and had kept her warm during that first terrible winter in Saint John. Carrie had heard her greatgrandmother’s story, the words incantatory as prayer. Log house caulked with seaweed. The autumn fleet. Loyalists. Grammy, child of refugees.
 
Grammy made tea while Azuba poured cold water from a pitcher into a bowl, washed the parsnips. They sat at the table to chop them. Grammy’s fingers were twisted, the knuckles swollen. She held her knife by tucking it in her palm. It flashed in the sunlight, cut as fast as Azuba’s.
 
“Lost a baby. Probably something wrong with it, Azuba. Nature knows. Think it’s something you did?”
 
Azuba looked into the beloved face with its splotchy brown marks. Skin fanned beneath Grammy’s chin in parchment folds; her eyes were tucked deep beneath loops of flesh.
 
“Every woman thinks the same, Azuba. I began bleeding once after I’d lugged a bushel of potatoes.”
 
“Why—” began Carrie.
 
Grammy raised a finger at her. “Take these to the hens.” She swept the peelings into a bowl.
 
Carrie went out to the sunshine and the cats. They saw her wandering towards the barn, strewing parsnip skin. The wind lifted her dress, revealed her tiny boots.
 
“No. I don’t think it’s something I did,” Azuba said. “I think it’s the way I was feeling.”
 
Grammy darted a look, but said nothing, only pursed her lips with their white waxy patches.
 
“Maybe wanting the baby so that Nathaniel would hurry back home.” She laid the white, rubbery parsnips in a row and aligned the ends. “When he was home, it was as if it was my house, or Father’s house. Not his. I could feel it. He was only a visitor. And I will never tell Father, but I have not yet reconciled myself to my life. I don’t live to fill my rooms with silver tea sets and satin cushions, delivered to me by my husband from Paris or Bombay.” She lowered her voice, spoke as if to herself. “I want to go to those places. With him.”
 
Grammy put down her knife. “He’s a good man, Nathaniel.” She spoke firmly, as if she had once doubted. “Some say he’s too hard, or too blunt, or too used to command. But I’ve watched him look at you, Azuba. No one else except Carrie gets that look from Captain Bradstock. Do you think you made a bad choice?”
 
“No. Never.”
 
“Still. You’re not like those peacocks in their pretty pens.”
 
They both watched Carrie. She was skirting the rooster, whose yellow and black tail feathers fluttered.
 
“I could see you on that ship of his. Do him good.”
 
Azuba remembered her small, bright-faced grandfather and how Grammy had broken into a keening at his burial, her cries unfurling into the sky. She’d been urged to come down off the mountain when he died, but had refused. She said she would live her life the way she wanted.
 
After they had eaten dinner and washed the dishes, Carrie and Azuba said their goodbyes. There were deep, oval holes in the soil where hens had scratched out dust baths. Carrie held up Jojo. Nathaniel had carved the doll’s face, arms and legs. He had painted its cheeks red, given it a wispy smile. Azuba had stuffed the body with dried peas.
 
Grammy took the doll in her hand. “Father made that for you?”
 
“Papa makes my toys,” Carrie said. She spoke solemnly and as if her Papa were not far away, nor would be long in returning.
 
Grammy kissed the doll’s head. Carrie hugged her great-grandmother and Grammy put one arm around the child. She set her cane, looked deep-eyed at Azuba.
 
“Never let men frighten you, Azuba. They’re boys at heart. Just boys.”
 
 
May 16, 1861
The Sail House
Whelan’s Cove, New Brunswick
 
Dear Nathaniel,
I have sad news for you, my dear. I am no longer with child. There was no fall or apparent cause. The baby slipped away, and I am left well but sorrowing. Carrie is heartbroken, for she had been hoping for a little brother, and had begun choosing names.
 
I am well. I am back at work with Hannah and Slason. I know you will think I should not be, but it is my wish to be outside and vigorous, and so we have begun breaking up the soil with the mare for a new garden.
 
Nathaniel, I missed you so during this misfortune. My heart ached for you. If I could have made a miracle, I would have lifted you from the seas and set you here in your chair. I hope you can find a way to make a shorter voyage, although I know it is not always in your control. This past year that you were home, although we had not agreed upon our future, was so blessed, not least the joy of seeing you and Carrie together. She misses you terribly and plays with her ark every night as she promised you she would.
 
I know that after you changed your mind about my coming with you, we had many discussions. I know that you tire of hearing my views on this, and hesitate to write them down, but I must say that I continue to believe Carrie and I would not be such a burden as you think. If you cannot find time to come home, please know that I am still ready to pack up and join you so that we may be a family. I am not afraid, as you know. No storm seems as bad as having to live day after day with no husband, and no knowledge of when he might return.
 
I am sorry; perhaps I should not write this letter, but these are my feelings at the moment, and were you here I would be telling them to you.
 
I love you, always. I miss you. I pray for your safety.
 
Your
Azuba
 
 
“Oh, Mr. Marr has ridden an elephant, too.” Crumbs blew from Mrs. Marr’s lips. She was tiny. She patted her mouth with a linen napkin. “He assured me he was not a bit frightened.”
 
Azuba and Carrie had been invited to tea at the home of Mrs. Black. Mrs. Holder and Mrs. Marr were present. All were sea captains’ wives.
 
Their skirts rustled, releasing the scent of lavender. They sat forward on their chairs to accommodate their bustles. Carrie’s feet did not touch the floor. She sat with a biscuit forgotten in her hand, staring at the cut glass chandelier, the fringed lamps, the stuffed pheasant, the clocks, mirrors and waxed fruit.
 
This house, Azuba thought, holding a teacup and saucer, was as large as hers, similarly ornamented with gables and turrets, set back from the main street on a slope overlooking the harbour. But it was so stuffed with possessions that its rooms seemed smaller, darker. Nor could she think of herself as similar to the other women. They were as overly decorated as the room. They wore rings on every finger, gold chains around their necks, dangling jet earrings, lace collars, ribbons, beads. They swept their hands in negligent arcs and talked loudly, without reflection.
 
Mrs. Black resumed her husband’s latest letter, lifting her chin to read from the very top of the paper. Fine silver chains looped from her pince-nez.
 
The cook baked tarts and gingerbread. I have a very attentive steward who brought me these with my tea. I passed the morning pleasantly, scarcely a ruffle on the ocean or a cloud to be seen. Today some handsome birds have been flying under our lee. I spied a brigantine standing to the westward but could not make her out . . .
 
Mrs. Black swept the pages with an ostentatious rustle.
 
Later in the day came a heavy gale from the northwest, attended with squalls of rain. I called the watch, but before we could get all sail in, the fore and maintop split . . .
 
Azuba leaned forward. She pictured the black clouds, the rain-stippled waves.
 
“Oh, bother that part. Let me find something interesting.”
 
“Oh!” Azuba said.
 
Mrs. Black lowered the paper. “What, Mrs. Bradstock?”
 
“No, I’m sorry. I just wondered what happened.”
 
“Well . . .” She raised the pages, scanned them. “He doesn’t say much more. They limped along, I suppose.”
 
Mrs. Marr set down her cup and saucer. She frowned when she spoke, causing a wedge-shaped furrow on her brow. “I skip those parts too. They will go on about the storms.”
 
“I like to read about the storms,” said Azuba. She glanced at Carrie. “Although I always wonder what he’s feeling, and he never says.”
 
“Feeling!” Mrs. Marr’s narrowed eyes slid sideways to Mrs. Holder, a stern-faced woman from Saint John. Mrs. Holder’s expression held a permanent state of affront, her mouth pinched down at the corners. The two women exchanged a glance. “Don’t expect to hear about feelings, my dear.”
 
“Not a shred of fear in their bodies,” said Mrs. Black, setting down the letter. “Annie?”
 
An Irish girl dressed in a starched cap and apron circled the room with the teapot and a plate of biscuits.
 
“It’s not only his feelings,” Azuba said, taking a biscuit from the maid. She wanted, suddenly, to needle these women. “It’s the storms. He dismisses them in a word or two. ‘Storm last night.’ But I find them exciting. I always want to know what happened. Whether the sails shredded, or if they had to heave to.”
 
There was a silence. The room was overheated, the windows closed against the spring air.
 
“What really happens, we don’t care to know,” said Mrs. Marr. She glanced at Carrie. “It’s best not.”
 
Azuba turned to stare at the bright little woman. “I wouldn’t be afraid to know.”
 
“Wouldn’t you? I suppose you would like to sail with your husband?”
 
Azuba saw that Mrs. Black’s mouth was opening, a change of subject in her eyes.
 
“Yes,” she answered, quickly. “I wouldn’t mind. I’d love to see London, Paris. Antwerp.”
 
The women laughed. They made clucking sounds, glanced at Carrie, who had not yet finished the biscuit she held in her hand and whose dress, Azuba noticed, was covered in crumbs.
 
“Have you met any of those women who sail with their husbands?” Mrs. Marr hissed. “Have you seen their skin? Observed their manners? And think, Mrs. Bradstock, of what we read in the papers.” The wedge on her brow raised, hardened.
 
The voyages that went dreadfully wrong, Azuba thought. Fire at sea, women put off in lifeboats, captains shot dead by mutineers, dramatic rescues in icy waters. These landbound wives could not conceive of the excitement of such drama, or imagine the lives of the families who sailed without mishap. They saw no challenge, no thrill; only the evils of weathered skin, the pity of coarse manners.
 
“Will you grow your heliotrope this year, Mrs. Marr?” Mrs. Black turned the conversation to Flower Sunday, in July, when the church would be decorated with blooms from their gardens.
 
“ . . . lovely new rose. Mr. Marr brought some rootstock from England . . .”
 
“ . . . Love-Lies-Bleeding. So foggy in Saint John, can’t grow . . .”
 
Azuba looked at Carrie and raised her eyebrows. The biscuit. Eat it.
 
She pictured Nathaniel sitting in a hotel parlour in San Francisco. Perhaps he was speaking to a woman with sunbrowned cheeks who was sailing with her captain husband, telling her about his own beautiful wife, Azuba, back home in New Brunswick, and of their fine house on the headland overlooking the Bay of Fundy, and of Carrie, his little daughter. Perhaps the sun-browned woman bowed her head demurely and then slid him an admiring glance. And Nathaniel was free to think of Azuba as privileged, safe, fortified by wealth, glorified by her absent husband.
 
Carrie nibbled nervously at her crumbly butter biscuit. Azuba felt sudden rage at the sight of her little girl, already burdened by the weight of expectation. Expectations. These tiresome women who clucked so disapprovingly expected her to come to their sewing circle. They expected her to grow formal flowers suitable for ornate vases or placement in the church. Like her parents, they expected her to spend Nathaniel’s money on carriages and dresses, and to stand proud at village events—ship launches, cotillions. Like Nathaniel, they expected her to produce children on whom a father might lavish attention when he returned on his infrequent visits.
 
Sun broke through a bank of clouds, quivered in the rainbowed daffodils. In the room, the light illuminated the stuffed partridge and the powder on Mrs. Black’s cheek.
 
Azuba leaned forward and set her cup and saucer on a table whose heavy cloth silenced the motion. She sat staring at the wrinkled pages of Captain Black’s letter, lying beneath Mrs. Black’s pince-nez.
 
Never again. Never again will Nathaniel set sail without me.
 
She glanced at Carrie.
 
Without us.

Table of Contents

Prologue
 
PART ONE: Whelan’s Cove
1. Noah’s Ark
2. A Family of Sorts
3. Davidson’s Beach
4. Sea Chests
 
PART TWO: Outward Bound
5. Chalk Line
6. Cape Horn Snorter
7. Yellow Dust
8. Moonstones
9. One Man Short
10. Ice Barque
 
PART THREE: The Atlantic
11. A Dead Ship
12. Creature of Barnyards
13. Crazy-Quilt Sails
 
PART FOUR: Antwerp
14. Lace and Diamonds
15. Chameleon
16. Flemish Feathers
 
PART FIVE: Hong Kong Bound
17. Safe Anchorage
18. Like Dragon’s Wings
 
PART SIX: Homeward
19. Rabbit Pie
20. The Orchard
 
Epilogue Glossary Acknowledgments

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Growing up in the seafaring town of Whelan's Cove, Azuba Bradstock dreamed of sailing the open seas. But even after she marries captain Nathaniel Bradstock, Azuba and her daughter Carrie remain on land, occupied with the busy yet disenchanting life of a sea captain's wife. But Azuba's imagination never lets go of the idea of life abroad: exotic ports, tropical climates, and unknown adventure.

In the wake of personal tragedy, Azuba befriends Reverend Walton. He is new to Whelan's Cove and, like Azuba, he is fascinated by the sea. After a misunderstood accident calls Azuba's relationship with Walton into question, Nathaniel finally relents and agrees to let Azuba join him aboard his ship. Although under much different circumstances than she'd ever imagined, and with her family's happiness and husband's trust in jeopardy, Azuba strives to adjust to the rhythms of their voyage.

The Sea Captain's Wife is the story of a woman driven by determination and strength to hold together a family she dearly loves amid the dangers and hardships of an often harsh and frightening world. The life Azuba once desperately longed introduces her not only the pleasure of adventure but brings her and her family to the brink of death, to face impossible decisions, and challenge the very foundation of her marriage in order to survive.



ABOUT BETH POWNING

Beth Powning's debut novel The Hatbox Letters was a national bestseller in Canada and longlisted for IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her fiction has been published in a range of literary digests, and she is the author as well of the critically acclaimed nonfiction titles Home: Chronicle of a North Country Life andShadow Child: an Apprenticeship in Love and Loss. She lives on a 300-acre farm near Sussex, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy with her husband, the sculptor Peter Powning.



A CONVERSATION WITH BETH POWNING
Q. The Sea Captain's Wife is rich with detail from the time period as well as festooned with specific seafaring terminology. How do you go about researching a book like this?

I started with a single book, "Women at Sea in the Age of Sail." I noticed the sources at the back of that book, many which were original documents in the New Brunswick Museum archives. I spent days in the archives, reading diaries, letters, and captain's logs. I also read old newspapers on microfilm at the Saint John Regional Library. Amazon and ABE books were a terrific source. I bought many used books, even some very rare ones. I sought out collections of stories, scholarly studies, and several Master's theses, one on the sociology of a seafaring town, one on pirates of the South China Sea. I also used travel guides of the period, one which was used by my great-great-great uncle, and from which I drew the portrait of Antwerp. I watched and re-watched a movie about a square-rigged ship that I found at Mystic Seaport. I visited the tall ships when they came to the Maritimes, tried on a hoop skirt, spent a week in a living history museum. I also spent two weeks on a small ship in the Arctic, which is where I envisioned how Azuba and Carrie would have felt when they stood, mittened and scarved, gazing at those icebergs.

Q. What was your inspiration for Azuba and Nathaniel Bradstock?

My inspiration comes from the place where I live, on an old farm close to the Bay of Fundy. For years, I have stood on those headlands and stared out at the inhospitable water, wondering what it must have been like when it was filled with ships. I have seen the savagery of winter storms, walked on icy beaches, seen abandoned shipyards at the mouths of rivers. And I am surrounded with stories of the men and women who peopled the hills where I live. I walk and ski in forests that were once fields. I see cellarholes on remote hillsides, and stand in the wind on fierce winter nights, trying to imagine the people who once lived in this house.

Azuba and Nathaniel grew as the story grew.

Azuba stepped onto the page one day, when I had a surfeit of research and couldn't stop myself from starting to write. I had become impatient with a sort of self-censoring I felt in the women's diaries. I wanted to know what those women were really feeling; and then I realized that that was my job. I had to figure that out and write it down. I simply began, with a woman somewhat like one I had been reading about, who, in the 1860's, had been on a ship like Traveller, with a child the age of Carrie. I loved the juxtaposition of the horrifying Chinchas Islands with the Victorian parlours of those captain's wives, and so I began writing, in the first person, a description of why Azuba was wearing a white headscarf to protect herself from the yellow dust.

Nathaniel was a composite of all the hard captains I had read about, some who were quite cruel to their wives. As the story grew, events shaped the characters, and then the characters shaped the events. By the end of writing the novel, I knew Azuba and Nathaniel as intimately as I know my own family. Yet they were not complex characters when I began.

Q. Each character is heavily detailed, down to the buttons on their shirts. How do you flesh out your characters? In your mind, what constitutes a well-constructed character?

There is the physical aspect, the outer person, as they appear to the eye of the beholder. And then there is the secret, private, deeply-hidden person.

I create the physical aspect by a conscious, almost clinical method. Sometimes I think of someone I have seen whose face I can describe. Sometimes I find a photograph, which I study. I studied two faces to make a composite for Nathaniel. They were both men who were on Shackleton's ill-fated expedition. Azuba's face I made up in my head. I saw her dark hair and the shape of her forehead. Carrie came from a photograph, a solemn little girl whose face gave me an insight into Carrie's character.

At Sarah Lawrence College, I began as an acting major before changing to Creative Writing. I learned the Stanislavsky method, which is how I create the characters that I write. In order to go inside, I need to be that person. I have to know what Azuba is wearing, how her hair feels on her face, if she is bathed or filthy, how she stands, how she moves.

Then I go inside. What is she feeling? And if so, why? What does she want? Is she ashamed of herself? What has she learned from a particular incident? And what factors made her the person she is? What did it do to Nathaniel to grow up with only men and an unloving mother? I am fascinated with how parents shape their children, and how children learn to understand and forgive the people who made them who they are. I am fascinated with how people learn to love, with how they move beyond hate, with how they deal with fear.

These are the things that interest me, both in real life and in the pages of novels. How do we become who we are, and how do we learn how to live a good life?

A well-constructed character is one I can easily picture, in my mind's eye; and whose inner life I can feel, and thus care about, passionately.

Q. How do you go about mapping out a story that takes place over such a long period of time and all over the world? What difficulties do you face on a project like this?

I started with an actual voyage that I'd read about. That way, I had a template for how long a ship would actually take to go from New Brunswick to San Francisco; or from London to Java. I took a few real incidents that set my imagination on fire. Starvation, pirates. And the horrors of the guano islands. I didn't actually map out the book, but dove in, knowing only that I had a captain husband, his wife, and their child. The story emerged as I wrote.

I had two particular difficulties. One was to keep the "tone" of my research out of the novel. I read many, many dry historical books, and that tone was likely to infect my own prose. I went through one draft doing nothing but purging that tone.

The other problem was that I was so fascinated by the drama, the actual amazing sweep of the story, and the delicious details, that I had to work hard to find the real depth of those characters. That was my biggest challenge, and the thing that kept me awake at night. Who were they, really? How did they really feel about each other?

Q. What are you working on now? Will we hear more from the Bradstocks in the future?

I am working on a novel that takes place in the 17th century, and is set primarily in England and in New England. It is based on a real historical figure, whose life has some totally unknown parts, which gives me scope for imagination.

The Bradstocks… ah, many people have asked me for a sequel. I did go so far as to begin researching the fate of concubines in China, to see what may have happened to Lisette, but I think each reader will have to take that journey in their own imagination!



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • When Azuba loses her baby at the beginning of the book, Nathaniel is at sea. What effect does Nathaniel's absence have on this situation and how does it inform Azuba's actions after her loss?
  • The idea of fate arises several times throughout the book. How does Azuba see her fate while growing up on the Bay of Fundy? How do Reverend Walton or Nathaniel Bradstock see theirs? How do each of these characters fight for or against their fate, and are they successful? Do you believe in fate?
  • Nathaniel Bradstock takes on a different persona when aboard Traveller. What conflicts arise between his roles as husband and father and as captain? How do they inform his decisions? How would you have handled the same situation?
  • Azuba's relationship with Reverend Walton undergoes intense scrutiny from both her family and Nathaniel. What is your opinion of their relationship? If it were Nathaniel who had a close friendship with another woman, how would it be seen? How would the situation have changed if Nathaniel were at home?
  • Azuba compares the way Nathaniel appears in person versus his daguerreotype. How does the distance between them change the way they see each other? What impact does that distance have on their relationship throughout the story?
  • What personal sacrifices does Azuba make in going to sea with Nathaniel? Would you have made the same sacrifices? What other alternatives did you see for Azuba?
  • Azuba's onboard pregnancy heightens the stakes in this novel. How do you feel about her decision? Considering the jeopardy that befalls Traveller later in the book, would you have taken the same risk and why?
  • Azuba notices that other captains' wives had, like Mrs. Marshall, "become somewhat like men themselves." How do you think the other wives see Azuba? How do the sailors aboard Traveller see her? How does Azuba feel about the gender roles aboard the ship and how does it affect her?
  • Azuba observes that Nathaniel "thinks of Traveller as his home." What is "home" to Azuba? What is "home" to Nathaniel after he returns from sea unable to captain his ship again?
  • Considering all Carrie witnesses during the voyage, what impact does the decision to bring Carrie along have on the relationship between she and Azuba? How does the decision affect Carrie's relationship with Nathaniel? How will the events of this book inform Carrie's future?
  • What does Simon Walton mean to Carrie? How does this differ from what Nathaniel means to her? How does the way she feel about both men change by the end of the book?
  • Azuba laments to herself that "the only women she would be fit to visit would be the other captains' wives, who also knew the true size of the world." Knowing what she knows and having the experiences she had, what do you see in the future of Azuba Bradstock and her family?

Customer Reviews

The Sea Captain's Wife 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
JOANNEE on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great piece of writing. It is mostly the voyage of husband and wife travelling from St John, New Brunswick around the Horn to San Fransico, back around the Horn to Belgium, on to Hong Kong. It is a fascinating read, set in the l860's and I could honestly say I couldn't put the book down. A World Atlas was always at hand. It is a harrowing and touching story about marriage, obligation and devotion.
jovilla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Such a great book! Azuba is a young woman living on the East coast of Canada in the mid 1800's when she falls in love with Nathanial who is a ship's captain. She has romantic visions of sailing the high seas with him but Nathanial is reluctant to take her, preferring that she and their child stay safely at home. Azuba makes a huge mistake and becomes a scandal in her village, thus getting her way with Nathanial after losing his trust. She and her child accompany Nathanial on the ship but their voyages are filled with hardships and difficulties, almost losing their lives more than once. This book is beautifully written by an author with lots of knowledge of seafaring during that period.
loosha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Be careful what you wish for.When Azuba was a little girl, she idolized the tough independent women who sailed on the merchant ships with their husbands and wanted to be like them. But when she married her sea captain, her dream did not come true. Her parents' gift of a beautiful home, her pregnancy, changed Nathaniel's desire to have her on his ship. It seemed that little Carrie would grow up not knowing her father and that Azuba would have to content herself with the boring tea-party society of her New Brunswick shipbuilding town.Then an event seen as scandalous to the 19th Century town results in Nathaniel's reluctant acceptance of taking his wife and daughter on the adventure of a lifetime. They set sail for London, then around South America, and later Africa and towards China. The voyage is unimaginably difficult, both dangerous and beautiful. The story is exciting and the relationships complex. Nathaniel is disillusioned husband, doting father, and commander of his ship. Azuba must come to terms with him and provide for her daughter amid the ship's rough sailors, most of whom are less than happy to have a woman on board. Her mind and circumstance keep bringing Simon, the man involved in the earlier 'scandal' back into her life. Did she make the right choices? As fate brings tragedy to their lives, the characters face challenges and change in ways they never anticipated. Excellent historical fiction.
icolford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dramatic and absorbing story of Azuba Galloway who grows up in Whalen's Cove, near Saint John, New Brunswick, in the mid-19th century. Azuba's dream of visiting the exotic lands that lie at the end of a ship's voyage comes true when she and their daughter Carrie join her husband, Nathanial Bradstock, on his ship, Traveller, carrying goods around the world. Nathanial's reluctance to bring his family on board arises from his intimacy with the dangers of life at sea. But Azuba is adamant that her position as a sea captain's wife demands that she take her place at his side. Initially he keeps her separate from the workings of the ship. But as they ride out storms and face perils that threaten death and worse, their bond strengthens and they develop an intimate trust and an appreciation of each other's fears and needs. Convincing period detail pulls the reader into a world that is expertly rendered. Powning deploys her knowledge of mid-1800s seafaring life, but never flaunts it. The result is memorable and moving.
julie10reads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the type of fiction that seems to tell the story of a real life, with real choices and real consequences. I am not particularly interested in tales from the sea, although I enjoyed learning about life on board ship as the Captain's wife, Azuba, and daugher, Carrie struggled to establish their positions and rights. The book can be read and enjoyed entirely at a literal level. What kept me reading, however, was the universality of the story. Sea voyages are common convention for depicting life at its most essential condition--desires and choices that can mean life or death.... My favourite scene is when Grammy Cooper is dying and the Captain, his wife and daughter visit her. Grammy Cooper has had all her hooked rugs taken from chests, walls and spare bedroom floors and placed on the floor of the room in which she lies dying. With a motion of her hand, Grammy beckons her visitors to remove their shoes and walk across the rugs to her bedside. "She [Azuba] lifted her skirt, looking down as her sock feet crossed the nubby knots. Trees, apples, mermaids, pansies, shells, whales, churches, clouds. She crossed them and knelt by the bed."Later, "Azuba gazed at the beloved face, its flesh loose on the frame of bone, and behind the eyes a lifetime of desire and hope, courage and fear, despair and acceptance. She looked at the carpets, their images fading in the dusk. Pieces of a life, laid into a kind of pattern, that Grammy had wanted them to walk across." (p. 351)
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a terrific book. Azuba grew up in Whelan's Cove, on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. She dreamed of marrying a sea captain and going to sea with him like she saw other women doing. When she does marry a sea captain, Nathaniel Bradstock, she is sure the dream is going to come true but instead her husband sails off without her and she stays in the house her father built for her in Whelan's Cove. She has their first child, Carrie, while Nathaniel is at sea. When he comes back he is loving towards Carrie and Carrie loves him back. But he still won't allow Azuba and Carrie to accompany him. On his next journey Azuba miscarries the child conceived while he was at home. The new minister comes to visit her and they form a deep friendship. He likes to walk on the shore and pick up specimens and Azuba and Carrie often accompany him or welcome him at their home so he can show them his finds. One time, Azuba and the minister decide to hike to a nearby rock formation which can only be reached when the tide is out. They fall asleep and the tide comes in stranding them overnight on the rock. Everyone in Whelan's Cove learns of this. When Nathaniel comes home he is told of Azuba's disgrace and he decides that they must accompany him on his next trip.Their journeys are fraught with danger. Going around Cape Horn in a sailing vessel is a tricky business and the ship must do it twice. Winds are unpredictable and sailors as well. Some times Azuba regrets her wish to join her husband on his journeys. She also knows that it distracts Nathaniel from his ship duties to have to worry about her and Carrie. But they do grow closer as a couple and the bond between father and daughter becomes deep. The author must have done a lot of research to write this book. There are details about clothing, shipboard life, places, even children's toys that are woven seamlessly into the book but you know she must have had to read extensively to find them.I just had one small disappointment with the book. (There's a spoiler following so don't read this if you intend to read the book.) Nathaniel's mother is referred to often in the first half of the book. She is portrayed as domineering and unloving. She decides many of the journeys taken by the ships in the family company and even provisions them. However, when Nathaniel is injured and has to return to New Brunswick, leaving the sailing life behind, there is no reference to his mother. I found that odd and I felt it left a loose end. Otherwise it was a wonderfully written and plotted book in my estimation.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, can I tell you how much I loved The Sea Captain's Wife! Azuba is the daughter of a shipwright in 1860's New Brunswick, Canada. She has grown up around the water and dreams of being a sea captain's wife sailing with her husband around the world. Her dreams seem like they will come true when she marries Nathaniel - a veteran captain. But when she falls pregnant with their first child, he insists she stay on land. But a scandal necessitates Nathaniel reluctantly taking Azuba and their daughter with him on his next voyage. Azuba's dream is at last realized. But is it at the cost of her love and marriage to Nathaniel? What about the physical dangers? Has she put her child in danger or exposed her to the adventure of a lifetime? (This is the kind of adventure I would love!)I always think I was born in the wrong century and this is the kind of book that greatly appeals to me. Historical - and really, the detail and research that Beth Powning has included in The Sea Captain's Wife was outstanding. I had wonderfully clear pictures of the town, their home, the ship and the ports in my mind as I read. Azuba is a wonderfully drawn character. Bound by the social mores of her time to do the right thing and be a 'good' wife she still yearns for adventure. Powning skillfully explores Azuba's emotions and feelings as she struggles to balance the two in her life.The novel is full of adventure as well - storms, exotic ports and what would the high seas be without pirates.I honestly could not put this one down. A rich tale from an excellent Canadian author.
sutherhd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of this book from Early Reviewers.A wonderful work of historical fiction, set in my home province of New Brunswick. This story has enough historical detail to be interesting, without overburdening the plot. Lots of excitement, especially once they set sail. I would like to have learned more about the origins of the name Azuba, it seems like a name like that should have a story behind it (I've never met an Azuba in New Brunswick!). Also, there seems to be a scene missing just prior to Hong Kong, or maybe I missed something.The I appreciated the complexity of the characters, and the relationship between Azuba and Nathaniel, and Nathaniel and his daughter Carrie.Overall, a wonderful combination of history and adventure, I didn't want to put it down!
Iudita on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book that was hard to put down. The story begins with a young wife in the late 1800's who is married to a Sea Captain that is away for very long stretches of time. She desperately wants to go with him when he sails and he is dead set against it. Circumstances happen that force him to change his mind and bring his wife and young daughter with him on his journeys. And so the adventure begins. The story takes you through several years of their experiences, some good but many bad. This story is high on adventure with a underlying love story that deals with this couple's loving but difficult relationship. I thought the author did a wonderful job with this book. She was able to convey the atmosphere on ship as well as the essence of the places they visited without using long and detailed descriptive passages and there was always an element of suspense throughout the entire story. The ending was not at all predictable, as I was unsure of it right up to the last chapter. My only critisism was that I thought the story got a bit rushed near the end when the last leg of their journey takes them to Hong Kong.I felt the author was trying to wrap things up quickly and I resented being rushed. Maybe that's just because I didn't want it to end. It was a great story.
jbealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beth Powning's The Sea Captain's Wife is the first book of fiction in a very long time that I stayed up into the night reading and woke up in the morning thinking about. It is a 19th century story of one woman in particular who fights to move beyond the limits of her time to join her husband at sea. It is a multi-levelled love story, it is a story of perilous exploits and uncertainty, it is a historical novel that puts us right in the middle of the story. Powning's attention to detail is exquisite. Put on your sea legs, readers, and get ready for a rollicking adventure.
LDVoorberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. Azuba yearns to be at sea with her husband, a captain, in the 19th century, and she gets her wish. The complications and hardships of the sea life await her, but also the difficulty in navigating her relationship with her husband.Powning's writing style is strong; descriptions are detailed and poetic. Occassionally the prose jumps ahead and I thought I'd missed something, but it's really just to move the plot along and I appreciated the absence of trivial details and repetition. My only negative observation is that as a reader I felt more like a fly on the wall than a participant in the story, which was most strongly felt when episodes of heartache happened and I felt no personal emotional tugs. Even so, I was pulled into the story and could barely put it down.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was delighted to receive Ms Pownings new novel from early reviewers and enjoyed it thoroughly. While described by some as a tale of love and obsession, this is also a story of adventure on the high seas in the late 19th century. Azuba Galloway has married a sea captain, Nathaniel Bradstock, and longs to travel at his side, visit the glittering cities of Europe, and sail the seven seas. Despite having grown up in a shipbuilding town and seaport on the coast of New Brunswick, Azuba seems almost impossibly naive about the dangers of travel in a wooden sailing ship in the 1860's, or so it may seem from a 21st century viewpoint. Further, it is clear from the author's research that many women made such choices and she drew on some of the many details of their lives and adventure for the story.In the heady moments of their courtship, Nathaniel was enthusiastic about Azuba joining him at sea but this changes after their marriage when Azuba becomes pregnant. Azuba is left behind on the first voyage but the next time Nathaniel reluctantly agrees to take her and their small daughter. There is now a bitter rift between husband and wife and their marriage is as fragile as their wooden ship tossed in the the stormy seas off Cape Horn. And so begins a thrilling story.HIghly recommended. I am now reading a previous novel by Ms Powning, "The Hatbox Letters".
Scrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Azuba Galloway, a young woman living in New Brunswick during the 1860's. In her fourth month of pregnancy, she loses the baby and the absence of her Sea Captain husband feels acute. She vows that when Nathaniel returns to her and Carrie, their four year old daughter, she will insist that they never be left behind again. While awaiting his return, she fills the emotional void with the company of the well-meaning Reverend Walton with whom she collects marine specimens. While on an excursion together, they fall asleep and are stranded overnight by the tide. The community spends the night fruitlessly searching for them. In the weeks that follow their return the following morning, the small town gossips refuse to believe their innocent explanation. When Nathaniel returns home, Azuba is hesitant to tell her husband of her misadventure and he hears only the gossip monger's version. Although Nathaniel has been vehemently opposed to bringing Azuba and Carrie on his seafaring voyages, he feels that under the circumstances, he has no choice. Furious with Azuba, once aboard ship, he treats her coldly. For her part, Azuba understands Nathaniel's rage and decides that she will lovingly wait for his forgiveness. Beth Powning's portrayal of the 19th century is well researched and detailed. Her descriptions are filled with objects unfamiliar to many 21st century landlubber readers (a glossary is provided at the end of the novel).Interwoven into the story of this sea journey filled with many hardships and disasters, is the personal journey of Azuba, who realizes the full impact of her choices not only for herself but for those whom she loves, who learns new truths about people and situations, who discovers the true complexity of human emotion, and who builds a personal inner strength and courage in the face of adversity.
jtho on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as part of LibraryThing's early reviewer program.Beth Powning totally sucked me in with this one. For the first couple chapters, I thought, "Oh great, another novel set 100+ years ago where the confident female has too much sass and personality for her own good and it gets her into trouble." The story became more than that, though, and was a meditation on Azuba's struggle for equality in her marriage, reconciling her dreams with reality, and fair motherhood. It's an adventure story at sea as well as historical fiction. Also, stories like this one often have a bit too much sweet romance for me, but the romance in this novel is more realistic and less of a focus, though it is key to many of the other events that unfold. I enjoyed this novel thoroughly, and will watch for more by Beth Powning in the future.
groovygal506 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I adored this book. I breezed through this book in just over a week (a very short time for me). Normally, I read to fall asleep at night but this book kept me up! This was for me a cautionnary tale about being careful what you wish for. Azuba dreamed of marrying a sea captain and becoming a seafaring family but was dissappointed when her life didn't turn out as she expected. However, through a perceieved indiscretion by the community and her family, she got what she wished for! Two years of harrowing adventure and drama on the high seas follow. Suddenly she finds herself longing for home.The one challenge that this book presented was all of the nautical language. However, there is a glossary in the back that proved very useful.There were moments in my book where I found myself holding my breath waiting to find out how things will turn out. Books like this don't come along that often. I also have a particular affinity for this book as it was set in my home province of New Brunswick and this very accomplished authour also comes from there. I would highty recommend putting this on your TBR list.
Yells on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel about a young woman, who after a brief scandal, boards her husband's ship along with her daughter and accompanies him around the world as he delivers goods to far off places. It's an interesting but rather simplistic look at the life for women and children at sea. If you are looking for an enjoyable and adventurous tale of the high seas in the 1860's, then you might enjoy this story. It has everything one could want in an adventure story: mutiny and pirates, lush scenery & treacherous storms and at its heart, a love story. I do think that the characters and the storyline could have been fleshed out a bit more. At times, there was a lot of detail but then, when detail was needed, it was lacking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful writing, beautiful descriptions, great historical detail. Made me feel like I could feel the wind on my face and smell the salt air back home in New Brunswick and feel the trials and tribulations of life at sea around the world. Well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book...I tend to like historical fiction in general, and was intrigued by the story concept of a wife on board this type of ship, in this particular era. The adventures of life at sea were interesting to read, and as another reviewer observed, made me realize the enormous intellect these sea captains had, as well as the responsibility they bore. What really drew me in though, was the emotional journey and love story that Azuba and Nathaniel embarked on. To begin their sea journey estranged, and watch as they drew closer to each other, was the best part of the book for me...I guess I'm just a romantic! But I really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading more by this author.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes you away, like any good historical read should. Wonderful descriptions of life aboard ship and the dangers. Characters were believable, normal people for that age, got involved and couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago