The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (thoughts)
This slim book has been getting a lot of love around the blogosphere this month; in my feed reader, at least, it seems a popular selection for Frances’ Art of the Novella challenge. I actually first heard about Jewett in 2007, when Imani (a book blogger back then who has since stopped blogging) ran an Outmoded Authors challenge, focused on authors who used to be very popular but were now rather obscure. I popped her on my long potential list, and even acquired a copy of The Country of Pointed Firs and Other Stories from Bookmooch, but I never got around to actually cracking open the cover. Obviously, I didn’t realise what a treat I had in store for me!
I loved every moment of this book; it reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (brief snippets small-town life with an emphasis on women), Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (episodic structure with an oceanside summer setting), and even a bit of L.M. Montgomery’s writing (the deep reverence for nature and little joys). A woman writer arrives at a small fishing village on the coasts of Maine, a generation after the whaling industry has begun to shrink, and rents a cottage. She proceeds to meet a variety of people who share touching or funny or fascinating stories from their life with her, which she writes down. While there’s not much a plot in evidence, I still found the book to be cohesive, united around perhaps a theme of nostalgia and the inevitabilty of changes. But mainly, I just loved spending time with Jewett and the characters she creates (drawn, I’m sure, from her own life experiences): there’s a gentleness to the text, despite its willingness to look at the difficult sides of life, that let me completely relax and get drawn into a vanished world. I cannot wait to read more of her works (several of which I’ve popped onto Athie via Manybooks.net), and I’d highly, highly recommend her to anyone looking for a new comfort read, more American classic authors, or seafaring life from a different angle.