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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: #411,508 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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adam Rust VINE VOICE on May 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
This belongs in any short list of novels about alienation.

The reviews emphasize that this is a novel about a group of lost people, struggling through problems that are largely of their own doing. Fair enough. Evan Shepherd seems to never make the right choice. The Shepherd ability to judge character poorly seems to pass along from generation to generation. The only difference is their response. Whereas Charles hangs on to his alcoholic wife, Evan escapes.

I was still searching for a sense of a meaning about this book all the way to the last sentence. That sentence, spoken by Rachel to her newborn son, seems to add one more layer of dark wit. Rachel, the wife of Evan, is nursing her son the morning after a fight with Evan. Evan has left, and unknown to Rachel, intends to start up again with his first wife. Rachel's words seem to indict both Evan and all men in general. "You're a miracle," she says, "because do you know what you are going to be? You are going to be a man."

To me, that is especially dark, because it would seem to mean that she is consigning her future expectations of Evan, Jr., to the same path worn by his father.

In the end, I don't know of this book has one main idea. Instead, it seems content to show the reader a contrary vision of life after World War II. This is not a book about plenty, about men coming home with pride, about love of family and institutions. These are not the people that Studs Terkel wrote about in the Good War.

This could hardly be more different. The war has touched the lives of these men. Charles Shepard must go to great lengths to explain that he was not a war hero. Flash Ferris dreams of joining the marines, but it is only a dream. Evan himself is rejected for physical deficiencies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Levine on June 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yates has a way of recycling the same characters, the alcoholic mom who moves around a lot, the son searching for his own identity, but he's such an engaging writer! All his books but one are worthwhile. For an in-depth critique, google "Stewart O'Nan Richard Yates."
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