Novella a Day in May 2022 No.23

The Country of the Pointed Firs – Sarah Orne Jewett (1896) 158 pages

There’s been a few tough reads this NADIM, and The Country of the Pointed Firs was definitely an antidote to that. Telling the story of a writer’s summer spent in coastal Maine, it’s essentially a series of character sketches that form a love letter to the people and the place.

The writer lodges with Mrs Todd, a kind-hearted woman at the centre of the local community of Dunnet, due to her trade in herbal remedies:

“Sometimes I saw a pale young creature like a white windflower left over into midsummer, upon whose face consumption had set its bright and wistful mark; but oftener two stout, hard worked women from the farms came together, and detailed their symptoms to Mrs Todd in loud and cheerful voices, combining the satisfactions of a friendly gossip with the medical opportunity.”

The writer finds solace and companionship in the area, both from her welcoming landlady and the environment:

“The tide was in, the wide harbour was surrounded by its dark woods, and the small wooden houses stood as near as they could get to the landing. Mrs Todd’s was the last house on the way inland. The gray edges of the rocky shore were well covered with sod in most places and the pasture bayberry and wild roses grew thick among them. I could see the higher inland country and the scattered farms.”

Very little happens in The Country of Pointed Firs, but among others we meet Mrs Todd’s elderly and sprightly mother who lives with her son on a nearby island; the affectionate local doctor; a grieving elderly fisherman; a Captain telling tales of spiritual experience; and hear the story of a heartbroken anchorite…

All the characterisation is affectionate and believable and Maine is beautifully evoked. A lovely read.

To end, I’ve mentioned before my enduring love of undemanding tv detective shows. For me, the thought of a writer in Maine conjures up one person in particular:

15 thoughts on “Novella a Day in May 2022 No.23

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