8.22.2011

The Country of the Pointed Firs - Sarah Orne Jewett

To become Fascinated.  A beautiful goal, don't you think?  Nothing like Frances' goal, of course, but beautiful all the same.  3 novellas is all that were required.  Only three and only novellas.  Phew.  I have accomplished this not-so-lofty goal and will consider my August and this Challenge a success.

The Country of the Pointed Firs was one I've been wanting to read for some time.  Who was it that first brought it to my attention?  Booksnob, perhaps?  Anyhow, of all the Art of the Novella choices, this one was the only title I had previously put on a Want-To-Read list, so it was a natural fit.

It's also a good fit because everything has been pointing me towards Maine lately.  Remember when I had that Montana spree earlier this summer?  Well, it has been all Maine, all the time around here in the last few weeks.  We have friends who are there now, and I am green with envy at their photos.  Thomas has had us all insane with jealousy over his vacation there.  I even looked into grant opportunities and researched VRBO places in Maine just because I wanted to go.  And now, we have Sarah Orne Jewett and her unabashed love for this quiet Maine village where her narrator summers.

There's not much plot at all, so if a quiet book is not your thing, skip this one.  There is a fair amount of physical description but more character development than anything else, and it's well done.  I can't say I was overwhelmed with appreciation for the book, but there were several lovely moments.

In particular, I loved (LOVED) that the narrator rents a schoolhouse on a hill as her "studio" for writing during the day.  Is that not a dream come true?  And the character of Joanna who (rather like Bartleby, actually) withdrew from society to the point of living alone on an island was one that made me both curious and sympathetic all at once.  In reflecting on Joanna, Jewett provides this stunning passage on solitude:

...there are paths trodden to the shrines of solitude the world over, - the world cannot forget them, try as it may; the feet of the young find them out because of curiosity and dim foreboding; while the old bring hearts full of remembrance.  ...There was the world, and here was she with eternity well begun.  In the life of each of us, I said to myself, there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness; we are each the uncompanioned hermit and recluse of an hour or a day...
Knowing my tendency to isolation, I can feel this passage resonate fully with me.  And perhaps one day, I will retire to a Maine island with a schoolhouse on the hill.  The windows will be open, the room will be bare, the wood floor will sound dully beneath my feet.  Don't wake me up, please.

So, it is official.  I am Fascinated.

I'm also wondering: why is the MH title missing the "The" before "Pointed Firs?"  Is there some mystery?

7 comments:

  1. Wow, you're the first post on this one to make me interested in reading it. I love that solitude passage, as I incline the same way. And I've spend a little time in Maine, which makes it even more attractive.

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  2. Also loved the idea of having that schoolhouse to myself with those summer breezes blowing through. Enjoyed this more than I thought I might. Quiet and lovely.

    Congratulations you Fascinated Woman!

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  3. I have to be in a certain mood for quiet books. I'm not currently in this mood, but I'll keep this in mind for a later date.

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  4. Maine IS awesome--but not as awesome as being close by to you and your sweet family! Love you guys!

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  5. Emily: As quick a read as it seems, I felt it moved slowly for me. Definitely a thoughtful pace, but one to consider when you're in the right mood.

    Frances: Thanks for the congrats - and right back at you soon enough. I feel like I'm cheering on marathoners. I'm always the one who claps and yells for ALL the runners, not just the one I came to watch.

    Serena: Agreed that mood matters so much. I almost wasn't in the mood for this one, especially at the end when things got a little less cohesive, but at the right time in could work.

    Sara: Love YOU! Thanks for coming by the old blog.

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  6. wordy you are! I finally found a way to have a conversation with you. I probably won't read your books (surprised?) but I will live vicariously through you by ingesting your every word. You amaze me sis! Love you!

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  7. I agree that you definitely have to be in the right mood for this one. No hurrying along, here. This was also the last novella I read for the challenge - and I'm "Fascinated" as well!

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I love a good conversation, even (or especially) one that gets heated, so fire away! I try to respond to all in a timely manner.