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Spartina Paperback – April 28, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375702687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375702686
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dick Pierce, fisherman and boat-builder, lives on the Rhode Island shore in a backwater world of salt marshes, alcoholic fishermen, crab boats and old homesteads disappearing under new resorts for inland tourists. A stubborn man thoughtful enough to know that the world is becoming too small for men like himself, Pierce has a mortgage, a family, a "puny income from lobstering" and a dream: to finish the half-built boat in his backyard so he can fish for red crabs out in deep water, make some real money and raise himself and his family up. He is a classic American solitary hero, and Casey knows the sloughs of the Rhode Island shore as well as any fisherman. Spartina won the National Book Award in 1989. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In his first novel since his 1978 debut with An American Romance , Casey uses a simple, unadorned narrative style to create an evocative character study. Dick Pierce is a Rhode Island fisherman who has managed to support his wife and two sons but has always found bigger and easier money just one step--a bank loan, a sponsor, a bigger boat--out of his reach. Instead, he works alone, and occasionally takes rich couples out for fishing runs, although he can barely tolerate their arrogance and dilettantish behavior. Taciturn and restless in his 40s, he grows inward, nursing grudges and regrets, until the unexpected occurs: an affair with Elsie, a bright young National Resources warden who alone has the power to draw out and challenge her lover. Gruff and relatively inexpressive, Pierce might be an impenetrable central character in the hands of a lesser writer, but Casey's skills as a portraitist are considerable; he captures just enough of Pierce's private moments and lonely fears to make him touching and believable.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

John Casey was born in 1939 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Iowa. His previous novel, Spartina, won the 1989 National Book Award for fiction. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is Henry Hoyns Professor in the English Department at the University of Virginia. He is literary executor of the estate of Breece D'J Pancake.

www.johndcasey.com

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Williams on January 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've read 'Spartina' a couple of times now and thought about it as a book I might want to suggest to my book club. While doing a bit of investigation on the price of used copies members might want to purchase, I came across some of the negative reviews here at Amazon. Although I'd never written a review previously, I felt compelled to try and add my voice to those who are surprised - in my case, astonished - with these reviews.

When reading literature, it seems to me that whether we like the characters or not is irrelevant. There are plenty of examples in great literature where the characters aren't people we 'like', but there is no argument as to whether or not the books themselves are worth reading. The same is true with 'Spartina.'

Personally, I did 'like' the characters in this book. Casey's writing gives us characters we feel we know by the end of the novel and, much like knowing the flaws of our friends and family members, we know the flaws of these characters and we know the reasons behind the flaws. We understand and we sympathize at the same time we're shaking our heads at their reckless decision-making. I never stopped 'liking' them even though they made their mistakes and I doubt most readers would.

Read this book. Enjoy it for what it is: a great novel with characters beautifully crafted - warts and all - by a wonderful author.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Solidago on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
It has been quite a while since I've read Spartina but I was compelled to post a short review in light of Spartina's 3.5 star average rating. The "Feminist Alert" review took me aback as I consider Spartina to be as good as contemporary fiction gets. I am a female and found this novel to be beautifully and thoughtfully written in the style of "A Thousand Acres." I will say no more as the other positive reviewers have already captured the worth of this story.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Vic on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a really great story, wonderfully well-written. The character is fully developed, both his good as well as his questionable sides...and he is very real. I think a lot of men his age will find a good character-connection with this story, and the struggles faced by the main character. I did. Casey has a great talent with words and story. This novel deserved it's National Book Award.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have unpleasant memories of the Old Man and the Sea from Junior High English class, so I purchased Spartina with some misgivings, as the premise of both books seemed similar. But, this is one of the most well-crafted books I have read in a long, long time. Unlike most popular novels, the book did not revolve solely around the plot. Unlike most literary novels, the book did not revolve solely around character development. Rather, both plot and character were woven together to create a splendid story that was hard to put down, even at 2 a.m. on a work night. The writing was intelligent without being self-consciously clever, and I kept thinking about the book long after I had finished it. Bravo!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
This National Book Award winner for fiction should attract
two audiences. First, people who love boats, water, the
shore, and men at work will appreciate the clam's neck view
of one man trying to scratch a living out (literally) from
off the beach. Second, the protaganist weathers a stormy
personal life, as difficult for him as his dangerous
work afloat. The description of trying to survive a
hurricane in a wooden boat built by the protaganist's
own hands is worth the price of admission.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Mendoza-tolentino on November 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Spartina is the way fiction was always meant to be written - dense, full of plots and sub-plots, and full of characters whose flaws and general dispositions make them both likeable and detestable at the same time. Dick Pierce, a grouchy and mean fisherman who has been trying to funnel all of his money towards a boat he has been building in his backyard, Spartina. Casey provides a thoroughly detailed and engaging account of what life is like in the fishing communities of Rhode Island.

As an aside, this book is the perfect reason why the people who write the summaries or teasers on the back of a book or on the dust jacket should be shot. The person who provided the blurb in this instance makes a storm, which does come at one of the most important junctures of the novel, the central event. What makes Casey's work so wonderful is not the storm scene, where Pierce tries to ensure his boat is not destroyed in the harbor before his insurance policy kicks in, but all of the other little things that go on in the text. Casey is adept at providing the most minimal details necessary to understand the scope of a relationship between two people. I loved the scenes between Dick and his wife and children, as they provided a perfect snapshot of what it's like to be a father who wants to raise his children as best as he can, while at the same time, being as selfish as a person can be in terms of the way he lives his life.

The book reminds me of Hemmingway, not just because of the subject matter, but because of the simplicity of the prose. I can honestly say that this is the first National Book Award Winner that I think has warranted the prize and I hope that the next ones I read as solid as this one.
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