Sunday, 21 October 2012


Courtney Sullivan's fabulous novel evokes the pine-scented, sea-salted air of Maine as four generations of the Irish-American Kelleher family spend every summer in the beach house originally won in a fifty-dollar bet.

The story has a female focus and shifts in perspective from Alice the matriarch, her bitter daughter Kathleen, 'perfect' daughter-in-law Anne Marie and adorable grand-daughter, 32-year old Maggie who is pregnant by her bad boy boyfriend, Gabe and determined to keep the baby and maintain her writing career.  There are wonderful descriptions of Brooklyn where Maggie lives with its 'streets of perfect brownstones' and 'the Sunday Farmer's market where she and Gabe had so often gone in early autumn to buy fresh vegetables and apple crisp and dahlias for the fire escape.'

As with all families there are tensions and bitterness and old scores to settle but Sullivan skillfully brings all the stories together at the beach house in Maine.  This book was heavily marketed as a beach read during the summer but I think it somehow suits the autumn season better.

Now that I'm back in this century I'm reading and very much enjoying Anne Tyler's first novel If Morning Ever Comes, I've got Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty on order and according to Barbara Kingsolver's website there is a new novel out in November.  Spoilt for choice! 


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I picked Maine up at the library but wasn't able to get to in time and had to return it. I really do have to put another hold on it, I just the love the premise.

Audrey said...

I agree with Natalie -- you're the second person I've found who loved this novel, and I'll just have to try it again -- especially if it's autumnal! :)

Bellezza said...

My husband's half Irish family comes from Rhode Island. I'll have to tell them about this book, Maine, as I'm sure they could relate to it in many ways.

I have Kingsolver's latest, Flight Behavior, which I'm reviewing in November. I hope I like it better than I have her other novels, particularly The Poisonwood Bible which had good points but dragged on and on for me.

Anbolyn said...

There's nothing like a good family drama to read in the fall! And I especially like ones set on the East Coast of the US.

JoAnn said...

I read Maine last month and absolutely loved it... definitely a case of the right book at just the right time for me!

LizF said...

Maine is next to read on my library pile having waited months for it!
Don't know what it is about books set on the east coast of the USA especially New England and Maine, but I just love them.
One of the best family holidays we ever had was in Cape Cod at the October half term and I know we would all love to go back given half a chance! In the meantime, vicarious visits via books will have to do!
Just read Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussman which is another family drama set mostly on Martha's Vineyard and you might find enjoyable.

A Bookish Way of Life said...

I have MAINE on my tbr pile and after reading your post it sounds like the perfect read for the upcoming winter months. Great post! And, thanks for mentioning TRUTH AND BEAUTY by Ann Patchett - I've jotted that title down ;)

Sunday Taylor said...

This book sound excellent. Thanks for the review. I can just picture the house where the several generations of this family live, as I have visited Maine so many times. I went to college there, as did my daughter and it is one of my very favorite places.

Ellen said...

I really fancy reading "Maine", I was waiting for it to come out in paperback, I will definitely read it now! I am very excited about a new Barbara Kingsolver novel, it is on my Christmas wish-list!

Shalet Jimmy said...

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lifeonthecutoff said...

Three of my favorite authors; Tyler, Patchett, and Kingsolver. You are in good company with them. Our book group just did Pathcett's Run, which led to a lively conversation, but we all agreed that Bel Canto was better. If you haven't read it, you might want to give it a try.

Maine is now on my ever-optimistic TBR list. Thanks.

Shelley said...

Hmm. As a writer I have to note that this is another of the mysterious Faceless/Headless Woman book covers....

Vintage Reading said...

Natalie, I think you would enjoy Maine, I will cdertainly be looking out for future novels from this writer.

Audrey, well the action comes to a head one summer in Maine, but I would say the feel of the novel is autumnal and just seems a perfect read for this time of year, hope you enjoy it!

Bellezza, yes there are strong Irish/American connections in this novel.

I can't wait to read the new Kingsolver and I'll be looking out for your review. I didn't love The Lacuna but The P Bible is one of my favourite books (although I agree it could possibly have been edited a little more!)

Anbolyn, yes, my thoughts are with the East Coast of the US after the hurricane. Must have been terrifying for residents.

JoAnn, I'm feeling all the Maine love! It is a charming book.

Lizf, yes I love books set in New England, too. I'd love to visit Cape Cod. I'm waiting for the Klaussman to come out in pbk and then I'm going to read it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Nadia, reading Truth and Beauty right now and loving it. I hope you enjoy Maine!

Sunday, wonderful that you have family connections with Maine, I would love to visit. Thinking of everyone on the East coast right now after the terrible storm.

Ellen, don't think I'll be able to hold out until Christmas for the new Kingsolver but I admire your fortitude!

Shalet Jimmy, thank you kindly!

lifeonthecutoff, loved Bel Canto, not read Run, loved State of Wonder. I'm reading Truth and Beauty right now and very much enjoying it. Must admit to abandoning The Magician's Assistant though. Wish I'd been at your book group meeting!

Shelley, my daughter's only comment on the cover was 'nice Converses!'. Wish I could get them to read more!