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The Fireman's Fair Paperback – April 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140168389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140168389
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With each succeeding novel ( Dreams of Sleep ; Rich in Love ), Humphreys has demonstrated a remarkable talent for creating appealing characters in domestic situations that reveal life's inherent ironies. Again set in Charleston, S.C., her new novel is witty, intelligent, psychologically acute and captivating. In the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, balding bachelor Rob Wyatt, 35, assesses his damaged expectations--an unrequited love for his partner's wife, Louise Camden; lack of interest in the practice of law--and decides to quit his job and coast for a while in a downwardly mobile life style. When Louise asks him to help 19-year-old waif Billie Poe find her way out of a strange marriage, Rob begins an emotional odyssey that will lead him to the truths about Louise, his parents' marriage, the secret that haunts his black friend Albert Smalls and, eventually, himself. Humphreys relates her story in graceful, pithy prose, unerring in tone and emphasis, full of wise and surprising insights: "The creatures Rob liked best were those whose existence was marginal. . . . For that reason he liked pelicans, he liked waitresses." Her characterization of Rob is complex and nuanced; revealing the origin of his angst, an incident when at age 13 he was forced to betray his mother, Humphrey conveys Rob's social unease, his habithabit or hobby? it's more than a hobby, it's a compulsion of bird watching and his obsession with Louise as elements of a fully dimensional portrait. The other characters--including gamine Billie, with a tragicomic history; maverick, golden girl Louise; Rob's eccentric mother and doom-obsessed father-- are palpably real. Unobtrusively delineating the social fabric of Charleston, the narrative culminates in the fireman's fair, where the community mingles and Rob watches his past and future collide. Though solidly anchored in the realities of existence, the narrative offers the possibilities of happiness and hope. Readers' hearts will soar. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo;author tour. (May) .
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- The hurricane that devastated much of Charleston and its neighboring islands precipitates the action of this novel. The destruction it left becomes a metaphor for the chaos in the lives of Rob Wyatt, a 32-year-old lawyer who quits his job, and his friends and family who reside on the Isle of Palms. Trying to make sense of the storm's aftermath, all experience isolation and misunderstanding. For much of the novel, Rob attempts to resolve his obsession with Louise Camden, who is married to his former boss. High school students might experience difficulty relating to a male adult in the throes of a midlife crisis; Rob drifts through much of the novel, acting without reason. However, the introduction of Billie, an innocent waif who is at once needier and wiser than Rob, should engage the attention and sympathy of YAs. The final scene, which takes place the day of the annual Fireman's Fair when all of the islanders work together, convinces readers of the restorative power of love. While this might not have the appeal of the author's Rich in Love (1987) and Dreams of Sleep (1985, both Penguin), it is refreshing to be able to recommend a novel with such an an upbeat, satisfying ending. --Barbette Timperlake, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Carmichael on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful novel about a man who is sleeping through life, and then one day a hurricane hits. And the man decides that he doesn't really like the practice of law anymore, so he's going to do something about that. And the man's been fantasizing about women his entire life, and so now he's going to do something about that, too. A really remarkable book!
One thing that's interesting about Humphreys work is that she focuses so strongly on one character. In this book we are privy to all of Rob's thoughts--and he has a lot of them!--but none of the other characters, and so they remain mysterious, both to us and to Rob. We're not sure why they do things.
The hurricane, which one character calls an "act of God," strongly suggests that there are not only people, but forces Rob does not understand, and will never understand, let alone control.
One imagines that the characters who interact with Rob in the book suspect that he is in the midst of a self-destructive part of his life--again, the hurricane metaphor--and yet we, who are privy to all his thoughts, realize that he is at his most alive, and in his center he is totally calm.
Humphreys will get compared to Conroy a lot, as they are both from Charleston and write "Southern," but I think she is the more subtle of the two. Her characters are not as wounded (or their wounds are more hidden). Also Conroy's work is more extroverted, whereas Humphreys' work is more internal, and suggests deeper ideas, or not ideas so much as a hint of an idea. I am drawn to rereading this particular work, as the underlying hints are just as interesting as Humphreys' use of language. Fireman's Fair is one of my favorite books, a truly outstanding work of art.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tracie Collins (billycollins@mindspring.com) on January 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read the Fireman's Fair for the first time seven years ago. This is one of those novels whose characters are so well fleshed-out that you feel as if you know them. I have read the novel, in full, at least three times -- and have opened it up and re-read favorite sections frequently, when I feel like picking up with Rob Wyatt and Billie Poe again.
Josephine Humphries, PLEASE write more novels like this!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Josephine Humphrey's paints an acurate picture of life in Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry of S.C. I would suggest this book to anyone who lives in or dreams of the sleepy S.C. coast. The characters are true to the region and the story. This book stirs those crazy dreams of leaving everything behind to start new. Humphreys is a welcomed breath of fresh air to S.C. authors shadowed by Conroy. I wish her the best and await her future work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Pettit VINE VOICE on April 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
I liked the Fireman's Fair the quotable thoughts written by Josephine Humphreys on water, pelicans, waitresses. Main character Rob Wyatt has left his job as an attorney and is also trying to break the many-years hold his longtime love (but married friend) Louise has over him. Louise is beautiful, smart, witty. But then Rob meets another woman who tests the hold Louise has on Rob, and he questions the measure of what he ever receives from her. The second woman is young, energetic and eccentric Billie Poe. Moments of revelation and quiet truths in this novel, and strong supporting characters in Rob's parents, brother, and best friend. Still my favorite is Humphrey's expository and descriptive writing -- love the insights (there are many more, but here's a short one) -- "You can get used to anything, but meanwhile it breaks your heart."
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