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Mary Ellen Chase (1887–1973)

Autor(a) de The Bible and the Common Reader

44+ Works 1,012 Membros 16 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: Library of Congress


Obras de Mary Ellen Chase

Windswept (1941) 51 cópias
The Lovely Ambition (1960) 48 cópias
Sailing the Seven Seas (1958) 48 cópias
The Edge of Darkness (1900) 42 cópias
Silas Crockett (1935) 41 cópias
Mary Peters (1934) 36 cópias
The White Gate (1954) 28 cópias
A Goodly Fellowship (1939) 24 cópias
The Story of Light Houses (1965) 21 cópias

Associated Works

The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories (1896) — Introdução, algumas edições983 cópias
The Book of Ruth (1947) — Prefácio — 75 cópias
The Book of Job (1944) — Prefácio — 71 cópias
Look at America: The Country You Know and Don't Know (1946) — Contribuinte — 70 cópias
Stories Selected from The Unexpected (1948) — Autor — 39 cópias
Scripture Animals: A Natural History of the Living Creatures Named in the Bible (1972) — Prefácio, algumas edições30 cópias
Vogue's First Reader (1942) — Contribuinte — 27 cópias
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1960 v03 (1960) — Autor — 20 cópias
Spring World, Awake: Stories, Poems, and Essays (1970) — Contribuinte — 9 cópias


Conhecimento Comum



I acquired this one from the collection of a late family friend (who had in turn acquired much of her books from her parents) and it looked interesting. It was an easy read, and the novel was atmospheric and almost dreamy as it progressed. It is a moody character portrait of a small New England fishing town as experienced through its current residents during the time of the funeral of its oldest.
This is a somewhat morose local color novel where an era is passing in the small fishing town with the death of Mrs. Sarah Holt at age 90 who knew the town at its height. The book is structured into thirds with the first third titled Sarah Holt which deals with the passing of Sarah Holt (it starts with her already dead but flashes back via different characters’ perspectives), the second third titled The Neighbors deals with the preparations for the funeral as well as the preparations for some to flee the town or simply those lamenting better days, and the final third titled The Funeral deals with the titular funeral and has some flashbacks featuring her as well as the continuance of the day until the men come back in from delivering Sarah to her resting place on nearby Shag Island. There is no real plot to speak of outside of this basic structure. Instead, this novel focuses on painting a portrait of the town, characterizing its residents to a certain extent, and exploring a theme.
This is a theme-centered, symbol and metaphor-rich story that weaves its ideas into a rich tapestry. The ideas that are most prominent in this novel are loss, memory, a diminished future, and it is rife with melancholy for the old days. The main theme based on these ideas as they repeat in different combinations is the past fading into memory then those memories themselves fading away as the town and its people continue to age, hurtling into an uncertain future from a distant glorified past.
The first definite sense of this theme starts congealing when Sam Parker begins clearing a plot in the graveyard for Mrs. Holt on Shag Island past long-deserted ship launches.
[…] He was thinking as he smoked his pipe.
“I hadn’t reckoned until now […] that I was doing this for anyone except her. I’d thought of it as a sort of token for all she’s given me. But I see that I’m doing it for all who once lived here, for the fellow who set these iron pickets and for the men who dug those cellar holes and built the ships. And there’s more to it than even that. I’m doing it to stir up the past and all the things it meant, once upon a time, to places like this.” [pgs.59-60]
Along these thematic lines, the townsfolk reflect on their advancing years while they ponder the “strangers” that flood the town every summer buying up houses that they only occupy seasonally. Especially when they come from New York City they are seen as “alien”, and the townspeople know that they will never belong to the coast like they themselves do because of their “new ways”. At the same time, the townsfolk lament that the ways that they know, the old ways, are passing as time marches on. One couple is even leaving behind the traditional type of New England church for an evangelical one further inland.
The fog which covers the town for most of the story seems to carry with it some metaphorical value as well. It seems to me that it represents doubt and uncertainty which all the people, and not just because of the loss of the past with the funeral, are cast into about the future.
She went outside and sat on the top step of the porch where she was instantly veiled and swathed in clinging mist. She drew a cigarette from the pack in her pocket; but the dampness of her fingers permeated it even before she had failed to light the match.
She thought of the dead woman in her own silent, fog-wrapped house and of the generations of men and women who had lived there, for one hundred years and longer, so people said. She saw Shag Island in its sodden desolation and the work which the three men had gone there to do. She saw the coming of winter, this late summer fog its harbinger, this early darkness its forerunner. [pgs.122-123]
In contrast to the older characters, the younger especially the children, seem to be shaped by different influences, those of the outside, whereas the older a character is the more they are insular to the sphere of the town. The town is to the older characters the entire world only including maybe one or two other places not actually found in town. All of them though, are steeped in some level of town lore as communicated by Sarah Holt. She acted essentially as the town’s memory of a better self. It is as if the town enervates the people within it and as they age, they sink into their ways and the world contracts until there is only the town. For example, the oldest surviving character gives voice to the receding of the old memories and ultimate enervation through his experiencing what might well be his final days.
He thought he would best light his lamp; but that, too, seemed to demand a strength which he did not possess. The days are surely drawing in, he thought, staring through his windows at the misty outline of the dark spruces. After a little while he crossed the room to his bed and lay down again. [pg.149]
A quote that encapsulates this set of core ideas is this:
“But you don’t get anywhere by always looking back to the way things used to be,” she said to Lucy. “It’s the way things are now that we’ve got to live with. This coast once offered you the earth and on fairly easy terms, too. But now it’s charging a heavy price for everything it has to give. And there’s some people who just can’t pay it.” [pg.173]
Another critical metaphor that is presented, mostly in the last third of the book, is the circle. This is related to the shrinking of the world that the town once served as gateway to into an aged, isolated remote New England fishing town. Sarah Holt (in a flashback in the last third of the book) herself says:
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately of just why this notion of a circle appeals to me. I suppose perhaps it comes from the sea. You always felt, when you sailed, that you were completing a circle. If you went to the China coast, you could approach it from the east or from the west courses, and whichever way you sailed back home, you always completed a circle. It’s much the same way with the tides rolling in and out. Or with the horizons one used to see on every side in open water. I suppose you’ll think I’m crazy, Lucy, when I say I’d like to be taken back to Shag Island and lie there where I began to live.” [pg.198]
Later, after the funeral, Lucy Norton ponders:
The wide circle of Sarah Holt’s life was being closed, out on Shag Island, just as she had wished it closed; and this narrower, still open circle, which outlined her own life and that of her neighbors, had tonight become both right and even desirable. [pg.218]
Here is a quote (sorry if I’m spoiling this thing but I don’t think many will read it nowadays anyhow) that seems to sum up the novel as I read it:
The old days, which Sarah Holt had known and which had made her what she was, had gone; but the coast remained. The great ships, which it had once built and launched and sent to the far corners of the earth and the sea, had given place to grubby fishing-boats; their captains, who wore fine, tucked shirts and dined in spacious cabins, to men in hip-boots and oilskins. Its present days, in comparison, were changeless and uneventful; yet they brought their gifts. [pg.221]
This quote also causes The Highwaymen cover of the Highwayman to play in my head. But that's neither here nor there.
The novel does not completely abandon its reader to the fog and darkness, however. Despite the heavy atmosphere, the rich but morose tapestry of symbols and character, all brewing in a melancholic brew of dreading the future, the novel does end on a somewhat positive note (the very last line):
[…] Joel said, “[…] I’ve always noticed on this coast how just on the edge of darkness, the sky often holds a long, steady glow of light.” [pg.224]
And here’s a favorite quote of mine simply because it adds a bit of gruesomeness to the piece implying a condition akin to the infamously cheesy Space Madness while a character reminisces. However, it also introduces a significant idea into the overall theme, stagnation. Stagnation permeates the current state of the town (remember the circle) which some of its residents feel more sharply than others and in a variety of ways.
“I used to see the terror in those years aboard ship, but I never grew quite used to it. When we’d have weeks of running before the Trades, with everything fair and not so much as a change in sail for days, no sailor could imagine a better life. But let us sit for weeks in the doldrums or work for more weeks against head winds and storms off Cape Horn, and this awful, sickening fear of never getting wind again, or of being dashed to pieces on some reef, or of capsizing in mid-ocean. It wasn’t heat or cold or drowning that men were scared of. It was just of being alone and lost in your mind in all that immensity of water over which you had no control. I used to watch it work. You got confused at first and then afraid, and after you’d been afraid for days, you got angry, and then you become dangerous to yourself and everybody else.” [pgs.79-80]
I really did enjoy this book for what it is, a moody character portrait of a small New England fishing town well beyond its heyday and lamenting the passing of the last living link with the memory of its best days all embodied in Sarah Holt passing away. Would I recommend this one? Well, if you’re looking for a plot or action of any type this is NOT the book for you. If you want to settle into a hypnotic spell of atmosphere and melancholy with a hint of light at the end of the tunnel, then yes, I recommend this.
With all her gratitude and admiration for Sarah Holt over these many years, Lucy Norton was always sensitively aware that there were thoughts in the older woman’s mind which she could never wholly grasp, areas which she would never enter. Surprised by some chance remark of Sarah’s or perhaps just by seeing from her face that she was dwelling alone in some enclosed, yet uncharted space, Lucy wondered about this separation from others. She asked herself whether, if she had perhaps lived at another time and known all the peoples and places which Sarah had known, she, too, might have been someone quite different, able to think far deeper thoughts, to understand people better, and to escape anxiety and fear. [pg.194]
… (mais)
Ranjr | outras 2 resenhas | Nov 14, 2023 |
An abbreviated history for children. Contemporary readers may find Chase's mid-20th "young people's book" style a bit quaint, but it's a useful quick-read on the era of the clipper ships. Not as interesting as Chase's earlier book in this series, Sailing the Seven Seas, but that's because the earlier book is based on biographical material concerning Chase's paternal grandparents. Still, Donald McKay and the Clipper Ships is a useful introduction to the world portrayed in Chase's novels, particularly Mary Peters and Silas Crockett.… (mais)
CurrerBell | Jul 31, 2018 |



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