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The Cottagers: A Novel Paperback – June 17, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cyrus Collingwood, 19, a lifelong resident of Vancouver Island, spends most of his time spying on the vacationers in their East Sooke holiday cottages with a mix of curiosity and resentment . He becomes fixated on Brooklynites Samina, Nicholas and their three-year-old daughter, Hilda, and their friends Laurel and Greg from St. Louis. Cyrus insinuates himself into their lives, acting the proud local eager to share the island with the visitors, and begins picking at their insecurities, including the professional jealousy among Nicholas, a successful historian; Greg, a struggling biographer; and tenure-track English professor Laurel. Only Samina, with her exotic beauty and reserved manner, remains a puzzle to him. One day Nicholas does not return from a walk along a secluded beach, and everyone becomes suspicious of everyone else. Using an omniscient narrator who unevenly reveals his characters, debut novelist Klimasewiski illustrates the who-really-knows-anyone? angles nicely, but they overwhelm the narrative voice, making the book feel idea-driven. (May 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Two couples, academics with a tangled history, rent a cottage on a remote stretch of Vancouver Island, hoping to write their books while sampling the simple life. It doesn't work out that way. Relations between locals and vacationers are strained at best--American versus Canadian, urbane versus provincial--but the bar is raised from tense to threatening by a strange teenager, 18-year-old Cyrus Coddington, a self-styled genius who is alternately attracted to and repulsed by the easy freedom with which the vacationers move about the world. As Cyrus immerses himself in the lives of the cottagers, we await the impending catastrophe, and when it comes, we watch transfixed, like gawkers at a car crash. A subplot about Cyrus' father, a crackpot scholar who may be in possession of Lewis Carroll's missing diaries, seems unnaturally melded to the main plot--its purpose mainly to justify the "literary thriller" description--but it's not enough of a distraction to kill the eerie mood, which is the main attraction here. This definitely fits snugly into the Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters camp. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330205
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,464,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It's got a potentially interesting gestation but it ends all stillborn.
William Zehring
Half way thought he book when the person goes missing there is hope for the story, at least something is going on but it truly fizzles.
- Kasia S.
Unfortunately, this isn't even one of those debut efforts where you can say, "well, the author did at least show some potential."
Adam Craig

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. T. Maher on September 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book; I bought it a day before heading out for a 4 day vacation on the southwest coast of rugged Vancouver Island, exactly where this novel spins its web and sucks the unsuspecting reader in. Maybe it was because I could easily connect with the locale or maybe it was because of the author's use of words but this one was a hit for me. I made it a point to drive through East Sooke and hike through the park to water's edge to "feel" the tensions that must have overcome the characters; Cyrus, Nicholas, Greg, Laurel and Samina on the "fateful day" and in the days following. The beautiful descriptions of beach stones and the topography of Sooke Bay made this read very personal. I wonder how much time the author spent in the area; he certainly captures the beauty, mystery and lore of being "out there". Gorgeous. I would have given this a 5 star had it not been for the last section which was a bit unbelieveable and out of place with the rest of the book. My advice? Go to Sooke, Vancouver Island, BC for a visit.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on May 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Young Marshall Klimasewiski has a bright future ahead of him if his novel THE COTTAGERS is any indication. Summer people are always an interesting subject for a novel, for there is something wry about their privilege and they becomes objects of fascination or contempt for the year-round residents, just ask Nick Carraway from THE GREAT GATBSY. There's something of Nick Carraway in the teenage protagonist of THE COTTAGERS, but here his name is Cyrus Coddington, and the passions the summer visitors unleash have a distinctly Canadian feel to them; Klimasewiski can describe the warm, clammy heatscapes of Vancouver Island as did Malcolm Lorwy and Dorothy Livesay before him. His tragic foreboding is his own.

Sometimes Cyrus seems a bit too observant and poetic, but that's the nature of the game. The US citizens who take up residence, the easy life, this particular summer are trying to escape the hell of academia, and one of the couples, Nicholas and his Indian-born wife, Samina, seem bewilderingly adrift on the seas of inter-racial tensions, despite having the bond of a lovely daughter, little Hilda, to seal their union. (Hilda celebrates her fourth birthday, and her parents invite Cyrus to the party.) The other couple, Greg and Laurel, are even more neurotic. Cyrus has a sort of COLD COMFORT FARM fixation on them all, and his strange kinship with these strangers begins to seem more and more weird, especially when one disappears and the other survivors begin wondering, what path took us here to this terrifyingly native place?

All of these interpersonal relationships are colored by another character's interest in the personal life of Charles Dodgson, better known to the world as Lewis Carroll, and his possibly demented interest in little girls.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Reading a few brief reviews of this book, I expected something really good....but it turned out to be one of only a very few books that I just could not finish....I got halfway through the jumble of plot, setting and character, with the latter so lacking that I could not feel anything for any of the characters. I was mostly just confused and often challenged to find not just the relationship between subject and predicate but to find subject and predicate themselves inside clauses with numerous and confusing pronouns for characters that were missing in inaction. I had to reread numerous sentences to make the most basic sense of them, and even then I often felt I was guessing.

I was reminded of an interview with Kurt Vonnegut. He was talking about the most challenging aspect of fiction as striking the right balance between character and plot with the right emphasis on each of them in a story told in a way that was accessibleto the reader. This book is an example of missing that balance in the vehicle of a story that gets close to being interesting but never quite makes it. Coupled with weak characterization and awkward sentence structure, this one was a miss for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By spacetamer on August 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have to agree with other reviewers who criticize this novel's plot. I found both the story and the characters to be irritating at worst and depressing at best. However, the richness of the writing kept me sufficiently interested to see the tale through to the end. The novel's contemporary literary quality combined with the personality of the landscape (a main character unto itself) as it is described make for at least an interesting read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Nineteen years old unemployed Cyrus Collingwood lives year round in East Sooke on Vancouver Island. He detests the summer rentals though the hot weather invaders are the prime source of income for the locals. Cyrus enjoys being a peeping tom spying on the temporary newcomers and in brazen moments loves to assault their rentals though besides scaring ten years off their lives, he normally does not harm them.

This summer he obsesses over two families; married Brooklyn couple Samina and Nicholas and their three-year-old daughter Hilda; and their St. Louis friends Laurel and Greg. He pretends to be their friend by showing them the hidden highlights of the island. However, the brilliant teen reads his guests quite nicely as he realizes there is an undercurrent professional rivalry and resentment between the historian Nicholas, the biographer Greg, and the English professor Laurel as well as realizing Greg is a womanizer. The exotic looking Samina is the one that attracts Cyrus as she does not fit with the others and he fails to psychology profile her. When Nicholas fails to return from a walk, accusations fly everywhere encouraged by sly Cyrus who knows what happened on the solitary beach.

The concept that the masks people wear in relationships change when the dynamics between individuals alter which can be caused by an outside party is proven in this tale. The story line is fascinating though the action is limited and the key characters never seem fully developed. Relationship drama fans will appreciate the hypothesis driven plot that unmasks visage armor, but fails to go deep into the psyche of the island visitors or even Cyrus.

Harriet Klausner
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