The Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082628
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2005
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.04(d)

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From Ted Olson’s Introduction to The Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction

Jewett’s representation of Maine in her fictional works does not fully reflect that she was well aware her childhood home place had been dramatically changed by economic and social forces wrought by the post–Civil War prosperity. By the late 1870s, while Jewett was gaining national attention through her publications, South Berwick was, as the author stated in a letter, “growing and flourishing in a way that breaks my heart” (Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett: Her World and Her Work, p. 43). The changes in South Berwick were the result of several factors: the reduced role of the sea-related trades in a rapidly industrializing nation; dramatic postwar population growth in the United States, which led to a rise in tourism and second-home development along the Maine coast; the construction of new houses that were architecturally incompatible with the town’s older buildings; and the cutting down of trees and the plowing up of fields to accommodate that growth. In 1894, Jewett looked back on the changes in Maine since the Civil War, and lamented that

tradition and time-honored custom were to be swept away together by the irresistible current. Character and architecture seemed to lose individuality and distinction. The new riches of the country were seldom very well spent in those days; the money that the tourist or summer citizen left behind him was apt to be used to sweep away the quaint houses, the roadside thicket, the shady woodland, that had lured him first. . . . It will remain for later generations to make amends for the sad use of riches after the war, for our injury of what we inherited, for the irreparable loss of certain ancient buildings which would have been twice as interesting in the next century as we are just beginning to be wise enough to think them in this (quoted in Blanchard, p. 82).

That in her fiction Jewett tended to overlook—and to condemn in her letters and diaries—this “progress” suggests that the author possessed a powerful psychological connection to her own childhood—manifested in her fascination with preindustrial Maine and its traditional culture. According to biographer Paula Blanchard, Jewett retained her sense of wonder well into her adulthood:

The sense of seeing everyone and everything with a fresh eye, the playfulness, the absolute honesty and lack of pretense that we associate with the characteristic Jewett style, all belong to her childhood self and are typical of the voice heard in the earliest available letters and diaries. Simplicity is the very essence of the Jewett persona; and while she matured intellectually and deepened emotionally in the normal course of events, her ability always to remain surprised by the world around her was inseparable from her ability to re-create it (Blanchard, p. 45).

One possible biographical explanation for Jewett’s idealization of her childhood world during her early adulthood is that her beloved father was ill through much of the 1870s (he died in 1878). In all probability, her memory of her father was integrally associated with the less chaotic (if economically marginal) prewar era when “poor but proud” rural Maine folk—from her romanticized perspective—maintained a hardscrabble yet affirming existence in an ongoing communion with the land and with the sea. Such an attitude, of course, reflected the literary and philosophical influence of early-nineteenth-century English Romantics as reinterpreted by mid-nineteenth-century New England Transcendentalists. Certainly, some of Jewett’s work (most memorably in The Country of the Pointed Firs) evinces a mystical bond between humans and nature—a bond that Jewett herself deeply felt.

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Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing 16 days ago
Jewett wrote this book as an homage to a by-gone day. Rural coastal Maine. A time after the Civil war. Very descriptive and occassionally insightful it is more than just a period piece or local flavor writing. The seleted writings were not as good.
writestuff on LibraryThing 16 days ago
Sarah Orne Jewett published her best known novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs, in 1896 - first in a serialized version for the Atlantic Monthly, and later in book form by Houghton Mifflin. It was an instant success. After reading this wonderful novella, I can plainly see why.The narrator of the story remains unnamed, but through her we are introduced to an endearing cast of characters who reside in the fictional seaside town of Dunnet Landing, Maine. Arriving in early summer, the narrator lodges with the central character - Mrs. Almira Todd - and spends the long, warm days writing and getting to know Dunnet's people and environs. She visits the surrounding islands, attends a joyous family reunion, and has tea with a local fisherman. The story ends with the narrator bidding farewell before boarding a boat bound for her home in London.Having spent many years on the coast of Maine, I found myself smiling, nodding, and laughing at the accuracy of Jewett's dialog and characterizations."There was good singers there; yes, there was excellent singers," she agreed heartily, putting down her teacup, "but I chanced to drift alongside Mis' Peter Bowden o' Great Bay, an' I couldn't help think' if she was as far out o' town as she was out o tune, she wouldn't get back in a day."-From The Country of the Pointed Firs, page 99-"You can never tell beforehand how it's goin' to be, and 't ain't worth while to wear a day all out before it comes." -From The Country of the Pointed Firs, page 76-When the narrator writes:I had suddenly left the forbidding coast and come into a smooth little harbor of friendship (page 102), the reader finds herself nodding in agreement. From Captain Littlepage with his outrageous stories of Arctic travels, to Elijah Tilley pining eight years for his dead wife, to elderly Mrs. Blackett and her daughter, the effervescent herbalist in the guise of Almira Todd - Jewett's characters come to feel like old and dear friends.Rich with setting, the novel places the reader on the rocky Maine coast with the sting of salt in the air and the dark green firs thrusting into an azure sky. It is a book meant to be read slowly while sipping tea and gently rocking on an old farmhouse porch. When the narrator writes: At last I had to say good-by to all my Dunnet Landing Friends, and my homelike place in the little house... (page 111), the reader will wish the summer were longer.This is a book that will stay on my bookshelf forever and grow dogeared and ragged from re-reading.Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes you back to another time--a great way to escape today's chaos
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sample is just the preface giving the life of the author, doesn't give you an actual sample of the book.