- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books (January 21, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316089699
- ISBN-13: 978-0316089692
I've read a few of Anita Shreve's books prior to this, and whilst I loved those, I admit I had trouble connecting with the characters in this book. The way the story unfolds is rather unique though, with the story narrated from different viewpoints, each character telling the story in his or her own way.
Honora is a twenty year old, newly married bride of Sexton Beecher, and like all newly weds, the couple is optimistic, blissfully oblivious of the tests that are coming their way. Then there is McDermott, a young man working in the mills, socialite Vivian from Boston adds a contrasting view to this motley group and little Alphonse is probably my favourite character in this book. This unusual group is united in the face of the economic downturn in the 1920s and 1930s, and the story develops to envelop the struggles that small town people of that era had to face.
The story centers upon the inhabitants of the fictional city, Ely Falls and different aspects of life are explored. Marriage and betrayal, love and friendship, economic trials and even growing pains ( in the case of 11 year old Alphonse) are all tossed around and debated, and readers will often be left guessing and wondering where it's all going to lead to.
What I liked though, is Anita Shreve's lyrical description of the sea glass that Honora loves collecting :
She picks up a chunk that looks like dirty ice after a long winter, ice that has been skated on and has gone cloudy with use. She fingers a piece the color of young dandelions and finds shards that look like flower petals : hyacinth and wisteria and lilac.
She finds scraps of celadon and cucumber and jade, specks of pea and powder and aquamarine.
Truth be told, I did not like the way the story had to end, but all in all, the plot was based on true events that occurred during that time, and it was a pretty 'educational' read in a way. The story had such great potential for further development, I found it disappointing that the beginning of the book was a little draggy, but when things started to speed up towards the end, I was begging for more details that just weren't there. All in all, this is recommended if you like somnolent reads, made for long, lazy Sunday afternoons.