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Cold Spring Harbor Paperback – August 11, 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; September 1987/ 1st Printing edition (August 11, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385295960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385295963
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The central "character" and enveloping presence in this novel is a "whole rotten little town" on the north shore of Long Island. In no sense the Cold Spring Harbor of the tourists and summer people, it is the dismal home base where the characters live out their disappointments and aborted hopes in the period before and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Evan Shepherd, a lout as boy and man, a machinist in love with cars, is the son of a retired Army officer reduced to the role of valet to his neurasthenic, alcoholic second wife, Rachel, daughter of a garrulous, socially pretentious alcoholic madwoman. Rachel's brother Phil, a 16-year-old prep-school student, is the only character who might conceivably develop into a substantial person. The lives portrayed are bleak, trivial, thwarted, vapid, but they are made memorable against all odds by Yates's high virtue as a writer. The power demonstrated in his earlier work (A Good School; The Easter Parade is reconfirmed here; he can bring a scene, a subject, a character to sharply detailed focus through an unswerving fidelity to the grim truths of existence, related in a clear and ringing prose.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The setting is a small Long Island town on the eve of World War II. Denied his chance for glory in World War I, Charles Shepard lives on a small army pension, his alcoholic wife a bitter reminder of his thwarted dreams. Their son Evan has a short, disastrous marriage when young, then passes up college to marry Rachel Drake. Happiness eludes Evan and Rachel when they opt to move in with Rachel's mother and brother. The strain of adjusting to his new familyand resentment over skipping college and failing his military physicallead Evan to start an affair with his ex-wife, even though Rachel is pregnant. Overwhelmed by their dreary prospects, effectively depicted by Yates's terse prose, the characters live in hope that something good might happen. Recommended for large fiction collections. Michael J. Esposito, formerly with Special Libraries Assn . , Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Richard Yates was born in 1926 in New York and lived in California. His prize-winning stories began to appear in 1953 and his first novel, Revolutionary Road, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. He is the author of eight other works, including the novels A Good School, The Easter Parade, and Disturbing the Peace, and two collections of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Liars in Love. He died in 1992.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Schell on October 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are authors, the critics will tell you, that do their best to try to portray the life American. They reach in, they say, and pull out what it feels like to be an everyday Joe, living, breathing, working, making love, and dying. Readers flock to these types of authors because humans are, it seems, naturally disposed to enjoy watching the descent of those around us, especially those with whom we can relate. These authors are experts in showing us what it's like to be human. These authors are the experts in telling the stories of those around us.

Richard Yates is not one of those authors. For one, readers somehow never flocked to him. And more importantly, Richard Yates does far more than simply tell the stories of those around us. He tells us the story of ourselves. It's through this looking glass that we see not what life could be or should be. What Richard Yates gives us is a picture of what life is.

There are no happy endings. There are no great periods of redemption and reclamation. The boy doesn't always get the girl and the good side doesn't always win.

This is life. It is often sad. It is often brutal. And it is always, when you strip away the color, honest. So too is the writing of Richard Yates. And Cold Spring Harbor is no exception.

Admittedly, the writing itself can be garbled, and the storyline is not as tight as his other works (Revolutionary Road is brilliant). But the message is clear; our lives are more filled with hopelessness than with hope. With regret rather than triumph. And with sadness more than joy. This book, like his others is brutal, honest and true.

Four Stars.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Stella on January 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Revolutionary Road a few weeks ago (maybe 2 weeks ago) and immediately ordered a few more by Yates. I'm a big dummy for not knowing this guy sooner. He's a great writer and this particular novel doesn't skip a beat in comparison to Revolutionary Road (also brilliant). No plot reviews here (except to say when the car breaks down, some worlds change) ... buy the thing ... support the craft that is way too quickly dying from brain damaging electronics ...

Make believe I'm Obama and trust me on this book ... then order (or go to a library) and read it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By My2Cents TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm starting to feel a little sad because before long, I'll have read all of Richard Yate's books. A wonderful author who really only became recognized after his death. Fans love his marvelous portrayal of the all American family in the 1940-50s America, exposing their warts and all. With Yates, the reader learns quickly that oftentimes, life and relationships just plain suck, and some people just seem to create their own misery. Cold Spring Harbor, is such a story. It's about unhappy people who make bad decisions to perpetuate their misery. It's was a terrific reading experience.

The novel takes place in a Long Island, New York town just before WWII. The father figure, Charles Shepard, is a retired WWI Army officer who never fulfilled his military dreams. Three days before the war ended he began to lose his eye site. He marries a pretty girl named Grace, retires on a small Army pension, and buys a small house in Cold Spring Harbor, but their life is anything but happy.

Grace, is hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, acts like an invalid, and before long becomes an alcoholic. Her husband Charles does all the housework, the shopping and even fixes drinks for the two of them every evening. Their handsome son Evan's life is just as dysfunctional. He is obsessed with cars, gets in trouble, has fits of anger and no ambition. When Evan's first marriage ends quickly, the twenty-three year-old, moves back home with his parents. One day Charles decides to discuss the situation with his son, as Evan drives him to his eye appointment in Manhattan. When their car brakes down in Greenwich Village, they need to use a telephone and they end up at the pitiful home of Gloria Drake and her adult children Rachel and Phil.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By chris1983 on July 23, 2012
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The title of my review is true, in this novel Yates flawlessly depicts the reality of two families brought together by fate. I don't understand why Richard Yates is so unknown outside the US, he would deserve whole essays in literature books for high school students, lectures in the universities all around the world. I think COLD SPRING HARBOR, YOUNG HEARTS CRYING and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD are his masterpieces. Maybe people fear to watch reality too directly, it is the only explanation I can give to myself for the success Yates never knew during his short life; even though he was a genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Lester on April 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a solid, short novel by one of our country's absolute best writers. Better known for books like REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Richard Yates wrote several other works like this one that are well crafted meditations on life in mid-20th century America. This one provides an excellent portrait of a seriously dysfunctional family and, as usual with Yates, an alcoholic mother plays a central role. In this novel she is surrounded by sad, desperate people whose lives just haven't worked out very well. Nobody is heroic. Or evil. They're all just human beings trying to get by.

I love the mother who keeps saying "isn't this nice?" no matter how shabby and rundown and awful a place might be. Far from being simply optimistic, she comes off as being delusional which is how people who always look on the bright side strike me. The prose in this brief masterpiece is nearly poetic and the book would be a fine starting place for anyone interested in discovering an outstanding, although often neglected writer in Richard Yates.
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