Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (1896)


Lory of Emerald City Book Review is hosting a brilliant year long event, Reading New England in which participants are asked to post on literary works  set in New England or nonfiction relating to the area.  She has provided us with a lot of great suggestions and has organized the event around reading themes for each month.  To participate all you have to do is read and post on one New England related book and link it up on Reading New England Home Page.  Lory has given this a lot of thought and I think a lot of wonderful posts will come from participants.

New England was first settled by those seeking the freedom to practice religion their way.  It should be noted that this does not mean they wanted full freedom for all to worship or not as they pleased.  It meant they wanted a community where they could impose their own beliefs on all, where witches could be burned, the land of aboriginal inhabitants taken and people could be held in slavery.
New England developed into the home of America's first homegrown great writers and thinkers.  

Sarah Jewett was born and died South Berwick, Maine.  Her father was a highly regarded physician.  For those not familiar with the state, Maine in the winter is terribly cold, just going outside unprepared can be your death.  It in Jewett's time was a land of pine forests, heavily dependent on the fishing and seafaring industries.  The Country of the Pointed Firs, a novella,  is set on an offshore Maine  island.  It is basically a set of interrelated sketches about people living on the island.  The people on the island pretty much know each other so there are definite connections.  

Jewett's descriptions of the rugged natural life on the island are magnificent.  She also lets us see how living on the island shapes the personality of the residents.  One of the leading and most developed characters, Mrs Todd, is a widow who grows herbs which she prescribes for natural remedies.  Jewett takes us deeply into herbal lore. Pretty much all the old time residents go to her for healing herbs when sickness strikes.   There are also people who come to the island for just a short time, to fish and for the tranquility.  

We meet a retired ship captain.  From him we learn that many ship captains are deeply read men, often focusing on some subject one might not expect.  Captains have long hours with nothing to do and are not really supposed to socialize with their crew so many read and become highly educated, in their own way, men.  We also learn a bit about the economics of long term shipping as if impacts the island.

For sure The Country of the Pointed Firs, considered Jewett's masterwork, is for sure worth the under three hours it will take one to read it.  

I am seeking information on novels written in the 19th century set in Vermont or New Hampshire, preferably by an author from these states.

Mel u


Fred said...

mel u,

I read Country of Pointed Firs several months ago. It was something I had thought about for a long time and finally got around to doing it. My only regret was that I had waited so long before reading it.

Mel u said...

Fred, that is just how I felt when I read Vanity Fair last month. Thanks as always for your comment