The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

This is another one which I downloaded from girlebooks and it was a very quick read. One thing I don’t like about the Kindle is not knowing how many pages a book has at a glance, I’m holding my breath at the beginning of a book and silently cheering if the percentage moves up quickly, just becauseof my large unread book backlog.

Anyway, it’s the first book which I’ve read by Sarah Orne Jewett. I suppose it’s really a series of short stories but they’re all linked to form a novel about the small coastal fishing village of Dunnet Landing in Maine and some of its characters.

The narrator, a not so young woman has returned to Dunnet Landing after having had a holiday there a few years before. She plans to finish the book which she has been writing, her landlady and friend is Mrs Todd the local herbalist who is very popular with all the inhabitants who rely on her for cures.

Through Mrs Todd the narrator is introduced to the people of the neighbourhood and folks on nearby islands too, and so the reader is introduced to the lives and deaths of various personalities. Some have hardly ever left their cottages so have led very narrow lives whilst others have roamed the seas. Some of the women in times past took to the sailing ships with their husbands and young families.

I enjoyed this one and although it’s set in Maine in the US it obviously reminds me of other books set in coastal fishing communities. It could have been set in Scotland where there are plenty of small inhabited islands for people to take wee boats to. But it also had a feeling of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, just because of the similar environment.

When you get down to it, people living on the edge of the land have the same joys and fears, whether it’s times past or now. Sarah Orne Jewett was able to evoke that ambience and it’s a nice mixture of seascapes and landscapes, with the land being described as Mrs. Todd goes off on her herb hunts.

Of course I can’t flick through my Kindle easily to see if the narrator’s name is ever mentioned, I don’t think it is.

Going off only slightly at a tangent, I kept thinking that Cabot Cove in Murder She Wrote could have been just like Dunnet Landing in times gone by. So I had to have a look to see if the place actually existed. Apparently Cabot Cove is thought to have been modelled on Kennebunkport. I do find that such a strange name.

10 thoughts on “The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

  1. I’m off to get this one! I love Maine so much and enjoy it as a setting in a book. There are millions of little coves and inlets on the craggy coastline of Maine. I’m pretty sure there is a lot of Scot influence in this state also.
    I agree with you about the page numbering in Kindle. I have the app for my iPad and can use kindle books on it. On my Kobo it has page numbers and on iBook too.

    • Peggy Ann,
      I think a lot of Scots and Ulster Scots settled in that area. It would have seemed similar to home to them I’m sure, apart from the heat in the summer. If I could just snap my fingers and be in New England I’d do it fast!

  2. I have a Library of America “omnibus” edition of her “Novels and Stories” that sat on the TBR stack for years. When I finally sat down with it of course I loved the stories. Her stories also remind me of Anne of Green Gables & the communities on Prince Edward Island.

  3. I’ve always wanted to read this so I’m glad to know it is available in ebook form. You could also liken this to Olive Kitteridge which is also a series of linked stories set on the coast of Maine. I really enjoyed the format of Olive Kitteridge so would probably like it here too.

    • Anbolyn,
      It’s available and free. I’ve vaguely heard of Olive Kitteridge, I’ll have to try to track it down, it sounds like I would enjoy it. Thanks for the info.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation and in the previous post. Must spend some time looking on girliebooks again. Although you point me in the direction of some great books!

    • Jo,
      I hope you enjoy reading them. I find that I can read much faster using a Kindle, I think it’s partly because the print is so good when compared with paperbacks or old books.

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