A female writer comes one summer to Dunnet Landing, a Maine seacoast town, where she follows the lonely inhabitants of once-prosperous coastal communities. Here, lives are molded by the long Maine winters, rock-filled fields and strong resourceful women.
Throughout Sarah Orne Jewett’s novel and stories, these quiet tales of a simpler American life capture the inspirational in the everyday: the importance of honest friendships, the value of family, and the gift of community.
“Their counterparts are in every village in the world, thank heaven, and the gift to one’s life is only in its discernment.”
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There was something about the coast town of Dunnet which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages of eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore and dark woods, and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges by the Landing. These houses made the most of their seaward view, and there was a gayety and determined floweriness in their bits of garden ground; the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore and its background of spruces and balsam firs. When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.
After a first brief visit made two or three summers before in the course of a yachting cruise, a lover of Dunnet Landing returned to find the unchanged shores of the pointed firs, the same quaintness of the village with its elaborate conventionalities; all that mixture of remoteness, and childish certainty of being the centre of civilization of which her affectionate dreams had told. One evening in June, a single passenger landed upon the steamboat wharf. The tide was high, there was a fine crowd of spectators, and the younger portion of the company followed her with subdued excitement up the narrow street of the salt-aired, white-clapboarded little town.
Table of ContentsPreface by Willa Cather
The Country of the Pointed Firs
The White Heron
The Flight of Betsey Lane
The Dulham Ladies
Going to Shrewsbury
The Only Rose
Miss Tempy’s Watchers
The Guests of Mrs. Timms
The Town Poor
The Hiltons’ Holiday
Aunt Cynthy Dallett
Reading Group Guide
1. The Country of the Pointed Firs is not so much a novel as small episodes strung together. What do you think Jewett was trying to accomplish using this loose structure? What is she saying about New England country life?
2. Consider the narrator's view of the "quaint" village people in the beginning of the novel compared to her view as she leaves Dunnet Landing. How and when did her worldly view change of the small village and villagers?
3. Some critics argue Jewett was simply romanticizing the idealization of the simple life. However, take into account Mrs. Todd's herb gathering, Captain Littlepage's "quirks, " and the narrator's friendship with the inhabitants of Dunnet Landing. Do you feel the core of this novel is romantic, or humanistic and even religious?
4. The work heavily relies on four symbolic contrasts-the funeral, the sea, the outer islands, and the song sparrows. How do these four symbols work and contrast with each other? Are they relaying the theme of the novel, and if so, what exactly is that theme?
5. Consider Captain Littlepage's "spells, " William's inability to function in society, and Joanna's self-exile to Shell-heap Island. Is Jewett commenting on what small town life can do to a person's mind, or is she simply romanticizing life on the sea?
6. Consider the narrator's reaction to Mrs. Todd's tale of Joanna. Do you feel the narrator relates to Joanna, or is she just simply sympathetic to the shunted woman?
7. In Jewett's time, alternative medicine was vehemently looked down upon while many women such as midwives were persecuted for their practices. Yet, Mrs. Toddworks alongside the village doctor, and even prescribes pennyroyal (a known abortive). Is Jewett trying to give respectability to a dying practice, or is she satirizing a "country practice"?
8. The Country of the Pointed Firs is often branded as local-color literature. Do you feel Jewett was nostalgically writing about her beloved Maine, or was she trying to contrast New England with the rest of America and connect the "good old days" with the more fast-paced, industrial America growing around her?
9. In what ways does Jewett defy the prevailing nineteenth-century gender relations, namely the separation of women's and men's lives and women's sphere in the home and public? In what ways does she embrace those views?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sarah Orne Jewett¿s THE COUNTRY OF POINTED FIRS is a visitor¿s tale. Set in the fictional Maine coast town of Dunnet Landing where the author/narrator has settled for the summer to write. As a visitor, the narrator inevitably recounts only the pieces of history she comes in contact with through her landlady and the people she meets in the community. The stories are portraits, bits and pieces, of lives that exist outside the narrator¿s brief visit. As a result, the reader feels like a companion on this holiday. The novella moves at the pace of a quiet seacoast village, and is refreshing to read for that very reason. Like a vacation, outside cares fade while focusing on the lives, habits and landscape of this place. The writing is finely wrought. A real affection for a place and people one knows briefly shines through the work and makes one wish for a time and place when travel, life and writing unfolded at a the speed of a long walk.Some editions incorporate other stories written about Dunnet Landing into the body of the novella. This can lead to a change in the narrator¿s voice that is incongruous with the rest of the work. Look for a version that preserves the order of one of the early publications with other short works in a separate section.
If you like insipid family yarns and the nattering of old women, if you're charmed by homespun wisdom and wowed by ordinary rural New England folk saying (rarely doing) ordinary rural New England things, and if you like literature to be a gentle balm, a comforter, a restorative herbal tea naturally sweetened with honey, served lukewarm so that you barely notice it while imbibing, then you will probably like this book. I loathed it.
Characters that equal Mark Twain's. One of the first books that I ever read while on Monhegan Island, and, while it is not specifically about Monhegan, I will always associate this book with my time there (hence the Monhegan Island tag).When I return to Monhegan Island each year, the feeling I have is captured perfectly in Sarah's words of "But the first salt wind from the east, the first sight of a lighthouse set boldly on its outer rock, the flash of a gull, the waiting procession of seaward-bound firs on an island, made me feel solid and definite again, instead of a poor, incoherent being. Life had resumed, and anxious living blew away as if it had not been. I could not breathe deep enough or long enough. It was a return to happiness."
Read on the recommendation of Ursula K. Le Guin. Solid, unpretentious and thoughtful. Last half of the book does not resonate with me as the first, but whole is unforgettable story of people and places that make up a small community. This book opens up consideration for me of how I live in my own community.
My mother's family was from Maine, and she told me of this book when I was a kid. My sister finally found it and bought me a copy. It's so sweet! It's stories about a simpler life in Maine. It's a nice escape from our modern reality! (my mother's favorite story was the one about the Queen's biggest fan)