Quill & Quire
Beth Powning’s second novel is the affecting and engaging story of a young woman seeking her place in the world – a place away from the loneliness and boredom of a small Canadian village.
Azuba is the young wife of Nathaniel, an older man who captains the Traveller, a commercial ship. The couple originally planned to travel together, but when Azuba becomes pregnant, Nathaniel realizes he cannot jeopardize his wife’s safety or that of his unborn child by taking her aboard his ship.
The primary action begins in 1861, five years into the couple’s marriage. Azuba, pregnant again, suffers a miscarriage while her husband is at sea, and finds comfort and understanding in her friendship with a local minister. Upon Nathaniel’s return, rumours of an affair between Azuba and the minister are swirling, and as a result he feels compelled to take his wife and five-year-old daughter on his next voyage. During that arduous trek around the world, Azuba and her husband begin to rebuild their relationship and in the process explore the dynamics of family and belonging.
Powning’s lyrical prose accentuates the struggles of the characters while smoothly advancing the plot. The descriptive passages paint a clear picture of the historical period while taking care not to wallow in gratuitous details. Unfortunately, the prologue is written in a more formal style than the novel proper, and the epilogue seems like an add-on – both are unnecessary and detract from the narrative’s flow and impact.
Thematically, The Sea Captain’s Wife is about the complexities of relationships – between husband and wife, between extended family members, friends, and society – and about the conflict between work and family. Nathaniel’s decision to have his wife and daughter accompany him allows Powning to effectively explore the consequences of a lack of balance between passion and pragmatism.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“In history and in literature, the sea has always been the realm of men, but Beth Powning reminds us that women were there, too. The Sea Captain’s Wife
is both a brilliant and absorbing story of a singular woman’s courageous entry into this alien world and of her growing sense of self-knowledge and strength as she encounters its demands. It is a tale of adventure and adversity, and of the terrors and deep satisfactions of life on the ever-dangerous and unpredictable sea.”
— Derek Lundy, author of Godforsaken Sea
and The Way of a Ship
"An exciting story. The Sea Captain’s Wife
reveals Powning to be intuitive and reflective, yet self-assured in her mastery of the art of nature writing. She skillfully weaves both a harrowing and touching story about marriage, obligation, and devotion."
— Winnipeg Free Press
"An ambitious historical novel rich in adventure."
"The best novel of 2010. . . . A brilliant, absorbing story. . . . Not since Derek Lundy’s The Way of a Ship
have I read such powerful descriptions of life in the Age of Sail. . . . Both [Azuba and Nathaniel] are fully fledged characters. . . . And, much like The Hatbox Letters
, Powning’s prose never misses a beat."
— Owen Sound Sun Times
"Beth Powning has the gift of drawing her readers into a work. The characters in The Sea Captain’s Wife
are enduringly memorable. Set in the 1800s, Powning paints scenes of sea life and its pains, fears, wonders, joys and tragedies."
— The Coast
"One terrific voyage"
— The Globe and Mail
"An elegant piece of writing"— National Post
“The Sea Captain’s Wife
is a terrific tale, fast-moving and expertly told, one which measures, in the author’s phrase, ‘the true size of the world.’ Like The Hatbox Letters
, Powning’s second cleverly crafted novel is not to be missed.” —Ottawa Citizen
“Powning has a terrific eye for detail, and her dramatic scenes read like a treatment from an action movie. Equal parts character study, travelogue, and action-adventure tale, The Sea Captain’s Wife
is a marvellous read.”
— Edmonton Journal
“Powning is an extraordinary writer. . . . Her people are as real as personal friends, neighbours or compelling strangers. . . . The writing rings true to its period without ever sounding like a device. . . . The book is clearly thoroughly researched, yet never reads as written research but as lives fully and panoramically lived.”— The Globe and MailFrom the Hardcover edition.