2022 16th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards Winner in Biography: Historical
2022 Maine Literary Award: Winner, non-fiction
2022 John N. Cole Award: Maine-based non-fiction
2021 Readers' Favorite: Gold-Medal winner
“[Wood's] passionate prose and carefully curated primary sources will certainly convince readers that Field is not a writer to overlook.”
“I just finished this lovely book and feel richer for it. Meticulously researched and deeply felt, The Field House is a compelling hybrid of biography and memoir. An exploration of the life and legacy of novelist-poet Rachel Field, it is interwoven with personal reflections that reveal the influence of Field’s work ethic and passion on the biographer’s life. This book is also a meditation on the nature of creativity and a love letter to a house on Sutton Island in Maine once owned by Field and now by Wood. For both writers, the house became a touchstone and a haven, a place to reflect and rejuvenate and create.”
—#1 New York Times best-selling author Christina Baker Kline
“The Field House lures readers to ‘a long-abandoned, wood-framed house on an island off the coast of Maine.’ When author Robin Clifford Wood buys a summer cottage belonging to famed poet and award-winning author Rachel Field, Wood is haunted by Field’s sudden death, her untold stories. Discovering treasures and clues Field left behind, Wood weaves a stunning and intimate portrait of a once-prized American writer and poet who deserves to be remembered.”
—Barbara Walsh, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and author of August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey into the Storm and Sammy in the Sky
“Robin Clifford Wood’s biography of Rachel Field is a beautiful and thorough history of an artist and writer with important connections to Maine. In The Field House, Wood doesn't back away from the complexity of Field’s life: self-doubt, aspirations, flaws, triumphs, unrequited loves, and final losses. And yet this book is also a clear-eyed survey of the literary world of the 1920s and ’30s, Maine island life, and a woman who, transcending gender roles and notions of physical beauty, offered the world a gift that, because of Wood's deeply personal book, will hopefully never be forgotten.”
—Jaed Coffin, author of Roughhouse Friday and A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants
“I highly recommend Wood’s enchanting The Field House, her intensely personal reckoning with the life and work of the nearly forgotten author Rachel Field . . . Field left plenty of evidence for her biographer to explore—in archives across the country, and in the Maine island cottage they both called home in a curious twist of fate that enabled this charming and heartfelt narrative.”
—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast
“This elegant hybrid of biography and memoir introduced me to Rachel Field and Robin Clifford Wood, whose lives, separated by generations, uncannily twine. Compelling, instructive, inspiring, and beautifully written. I was greatly moved.”
—Monica Wood, award-winning author of The One-in-a-million Boy, When We Were the Kennedys, and Any Bitter Thing
“Robin Clifford Wood has combined immense archival material and keen insights to create a detailed and enchanting biography of Rachel Field. The author’s skillful use of granular sources, paired with her sophisticated wordsmithing, has produced a book that is both informative and lyrical. Readers will also appreciate the author's parallel discussion of the writing process itself—an articulate discussion that will undoubtedly seem familiar to anyone who has ever struggled to discover and tell a story. This is a delight to read.”
—historian Jacalyn Eddy, author of Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children's Book Publishing, 1919-1939
“This fascinating book about the life of Newbery Medal-winning author Rachel Field lives at the intersection of seamless research and rich personal reflection. Wood offers such insightful, knowing details about Field’s writing life and her personal attachment to Maine, that we come to feel we are reading the account of a close friend. Wonderfully executed, The Field House renders Field's extraordinary life with great empathy and beautiful, lucid prose.”
—Susan Conley, critically acclaimed author of Landslide, Elsey Come Home, The Foremost Good Fortune, and Paris Was the Place
“This wonderful book—based on meticulously thorough, devoted research—is a lovingly tender, wise, and judicious account of Rachel Field and her world. Its unusual blend of memoir and biography helps to illuminate the life, even as a poignant dialogue between the author and her subject unfolds. Truly, a tour-de-force!”
—Benson Bobrick, award-winning author of Angel in the Whirlwind and Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution it Inspired
A writer explores her personal connections to author Rachel Field.
“Something happens during the writing of a biography that feels a lot like falling in love,” Wood writes in her prologue, explaining her intense drive to tell the story of Field, a Newbery Award–winning novelist and poet active in the early 20th century. After purchasing Field’s summer home on Sutton Island, Maine, Wood found herself surrounded by Field’s last remaining possessions and “lingering wisps of [her] creative energy.” Through meticulous research, Wood uses letters and poems to reconstruct Field’s life, from her childhood at the turn of the century to her hard-won success as a children’s author. Field’s childhood in an illustrious family provided inspiration for her legacy, but it was her unrequited love for a gay Southern gentleman and insecurities about her appearance that Wood believes inspired Field’s best poems and her “wonderful” adult novel Time out of Mind (1935), which earned a Kirkus Star, both somewhat overlooked following her death. Field would eventually find love and relocate to California, witnessing the early, bustling days of Hollywood. She tried to build a family until her untimely and surprising death. Interwoven throughout this story are letters directly from Wood to Field detailing her unfaltering admiration and how Field’s story took Wood on her own journeys across the country and on to finding her own voice as a writer. Wood makes some admirable attempts to take some critical distance from Field. She provides insightful analysis of Field’s work, discusses the two women’s similar, yet vastly different, struggles over career and family, and even addresses Field’s privilege and seemingly racist remarks. But Wood always returns to effusive, consistent admiration for her subject matter. Readers may not walk away with the same devotion and excitement that Wood desperately wants to share, but her passionate prose and carefully curated primary sources will certainly convince readers that Field is not a writer to overlook.
An eloquent, detailed tribute to a less well-known but inspiring author.