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Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn: A Novel Paperback – October 15, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (October 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312154186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312154189
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 4.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,108,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sharks are not the only peril faced by James Pfeiffer, age 20, as he works on a scallop trawler off the Rhode Island coast. Treacherous accidents and the risk of drug-running operations cloud the waters; the sting of losing his girlfriend adds bite to the salt air. Watkins, whose critically praised first novel, Night over Day over Night , was published when he himself was his hero's age (he is now 24), has worked on the ships he writes about, and his seafaring adventure is also a coming-of-age novel. James's mixture of love and contempt for his fisherman father Russ, coupled with Russ's fierce desire to see his son make something better of himself, drives the story. Among the crew members are an ex-Green Beret with psychotic tendencies and a hard-drinking former lumberjack. Watkins's spare, whittled-down prose does not buoy up the action, but readers will savor the realistic evocations of life at sea and the portrayal of a particular maritime subculture.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This novel of a young man's indoctrination into his fisherman father's way of life is engaging, believable, and unromantic. So genuine are the events and dialogue that the book's flaws--melodramatic lines muttered as the father wakes from nightmares, the hero's tritely rendered entrepreneur brother, the occasional telegraphing of events intended to surprise--stand out in stark relief. Still, there are plenty of moments--most particularly, the moving ending, plausible yet startling--that evince Watkins's skill with plot. His greatest skill, however, is his outstanding descriptive power: Some of the images, including a barnacle-encrusted corpse and a crewman gravely injured by the dredge cables, are unforgettable. Readers who know the docks of the Atlantic fisheries will instantly recognize the rugged fishermen and rusted vessels Watkins depicts. Don't look for profundity here, but expect a good read.
- Frank Pisano, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
Simply one of the best books I have ever read.
Richard A. Mitchell
Paul Watkins' impecable storytelling and his incredible attention to detail is what makes him an outstanding novelist.
Bad Biker Bill
And you can easily identify with his characters.
K. Christie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Mitchell VINE VOICE on April 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
After Archangel, The Forger and Night Over Day Over Night I liked Watkins but felt each book somehow just missed. This one did not. Simply one of the best books I have ever read.
Watkins writes with a grueling sensitivity that is unparalleled. He writes realistically of the hard, dirty, unrelentingly difficult life of a fisherman with a sensitive hand but without maudlin sympathy. Watkins' succinct writing style adds to the tone. You get to know his main character without really understanding him. Indeed, it is clear he does not understand himself. It would be unfair for the reader to do so.
A book of dreams clashing with reality - a place we have all been, especially when youth is meeting adulthood. This is a book you truly will not be able to put down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Larry Pomatto (lpomatto@dnrec.state.de.us) on February 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Where to begin...? Perhaps I should just say that last summer when I asked my now-fiance for her hand in marriage on the beach below the Southeast Lighthouse on the beach under Mohegan bluffs, little did I know that James Pfeiffer's grandfather washed up at that very spot! Or that his grandfather is now buried on--or has since been eroded from--the cliff above.
The tale must be true, for Watkins gives it as true a rendering as an in-lander such as myself could ever comprehend. Pfeif might find it ironic that I--admittedly much closer to a Gatsby boy than he'd care to be associated with, or than I'd like to admit--would consider his sea saga indelibly inked in my mind, and my soul.
Though it was just a momentary setting in the book, I can now say that I have visited Block Island and its waters *twice*--once physically as a tourist, and once metaphysically via Calm at Sunset...--from taking the ferry, to riding out to the bluffs by bike, to smelling the salty air.
Strange the way things work out, both in life and in literature. I hadn't known where this story was set, only that it was written by Watkins. But having read _Archangel_ and _In the Blue Light of African Dreams_, that was sufficient. Next Watkins masterpiece! (And let's hope they keep coming!)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Cooke on March 6, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Paul Watkins is the best fiction writer alive. Like his other books, "Calm at Sunset" showcases his ability to create true to life characters with a journalist's eye for detail and economy of words. As always, at the heart of his story is a moral core that is absent from most modern fiction. Mr. Watkins writes the kind of book you want to own, to read and re-read, and to pass on to your children.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Paul Watkins relies on his working experiences on a trawler along the Rhode Island coast in order to recreate the world of fishermen. James Pfeiffer is the protagonist. For me, he is an unforgettable character. Against his parents' wishes, James, an innocent young man begins his apprenticeship. Within a short time he encounters the harsh realities of the sea and human nature. I have returned to this novel over the years. I continue to gain insight into personalities and motives. I can no longer look at a beautiful painting of the ocean and believe it to be a place of tranquillity. The writing is intricately detailed. It is visual and immediate. The reader can practically feel the motion of the waves, and see the dazzle of the sunlight on the water. This novel became a Hallmark Hall of Fame film and was televised in 1996. Calm At Sunset Calm At Dawn is one of Watkins' best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 14, 1997
Format: Paperback
Watkins wrote his first novel at the age of 23; it was nominated for the Booker Prize.

High praise, that. Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn lives up to comparisons with Hemingway and London in both the author's method of research and in the telling of the tale. I saw Watkins read from the book in Boston, and the typical young author mythos - erring towards the darkness, along with an air of high seriousness - was refreshingly absent.

For readers looking for an honest and simple telling of youth in search of identity - less the usual jaded and miserable outlook - Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn is a keeper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mdbiker on July 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
you'd only be interested in this story if you had a deep deep interest in deep sea fishing since 2/3 of the book sonsis of descriptions of such activities.

there is no drama, little story and characters that are not sympathetic ...

i got the book based on its 5 star rating but in retrospect, with 11 ratings in 16 years it is clear that the ratings are fixed by friends. please pass this up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
The beginging of the book had a slow, mediocore rhythm to it, but that quickly passed into the making of a great novel. It taught a great moral and showed Watkins' great work and capability.
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