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The Rathbones Hardcover – August 6, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fleeing from a mysterious man in blue, 15-year-old Mercy Rathbone and her cousin, Mordecai, set off on a near-epic odyssey that will take them in search of the girl’s whaler father, who has been missing for nine years, and for the twin brother she has never known. Set in the mid-nineteenth century, their journey traverses space and time, too, as numerous flashbacks fill in the history of the legendary Rathbone family. The Rathbone men seem to have an almost preternatural affinity for the sea and have made a fortune from whaling. But by the time the novel begins, the whales are gone, the family has almost completely died out, its mansion is crumbling, its fortune is dwindling. Will Mercy and Mordecai somehow manage to reverse the tide? There are hints here of Homer’s Odyssey and, in the whale-obsessed father, of Melville’s Moby-Dick. But, in larger part, the story seems to be a dark combination of fairy tale and fever dream, replete with reality-bending, dark secrets, and a fascinating, multigenerational family. --Michael Cart


“Part odyssey, part ancestral mystery and part sea shanty, all brilliantly entwined and soaked in Greek myth. Mercy's journey over sea and shore and through extraordinary family history is a remarkable tale, both epic and intimate. The Rathbones itself feels as though it was loom-woven or carved in whalebone. Beautifully crafted and elegantly told. A siren song of a story.”

-Erin Morgenstern, bestselling author of The Night Circus

“Janice Clark, in her new novel, The Rathbones, steeps readers in her world, which is strange and unforgettable… Reading The Rathbones you will want to live in these salt-swept cottages, sleep in these damp sheets, feel the Atlantic breeze sweep in to your bedroom at night… Clark's magic is in creating places that will linger with you, and make you long for the sea as if you, too, were spawned from an ancient whaling family.”
-The Chicago Tribune

Janice Clark’s debut novel is fabulous — in the word’s earlier definitions of ‘suggesting a fable’ and ‘astonishing,’ as well as its modern meaning of ‘terrific’ and ‘awesome.’ The Rathbones is both cleverly crafted and a beguiling read…part fairy tale, part sea yarn (with nods to Melville and Hemingway), part Homeric epic, it is also a story of star-crossed love, spiced with Gothic Poe-like details and a dollop of farce… Mercy’s “sometimes patchy tale,” woven from many fantastical threads, will provide landlubbers many a diverting hour following the fortunes of this salty family.”
-The Boston Globe
“This is a novel of vividly imagined settings: the Rathbone home, the islands Mercy and Mordecai visit, the ship on which they sail. Clark’s command of language and power of description are the novel’s great strengths…Clark’s writing is unquestionably beautiful… be borne away by the novel’s lyricism and return from the journey refreshed.”
-The Dallas Morning News

“Take a deep breath before you start reading The Rathbones, and renew regularly. Her book is vastly appealing in its primal reach back to the Odyssey and Moby-Dick. The Rathbones will draw in men and women alike, and at its close, many of those readers may well be inclined to take another deep breath—and start all over again.”

"The Rathbones is the most sui generis debut you’re likely to encounter this year. Think Moby-Dick directed by David Lynch from a screenplay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez…with Charles Addams doing the set design and The Decembrists supplying the chanteys. Clark writes a beautiful prose line, and the story, like the ocean, gets deeper, richer, and stranger the farther out you go.”
-The Millions; Featured in “Most Anticipated: The Great Second Half  for 2013”

“A teenager comes of age and grapples with the heavy burdens of family secrets against the backdrop of the 19th Century New England whaling industry in this beautifully written, playful and intricate debut novel.  Clark creates evocative descriptions . . . making her images and encounters between people especially vivid.” 
 - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review.

“Drawing on Edgar Allan Poe, Homer and Herman Melville, an ambitious saga of lineage and whaling … Simultaneously mythic, gothic and whimsical … Clark imagines a rich hinterland to her briny story … [and] seduces with her vision and prose.”
 -Kirkus Reviews

“Dark and beautifully written, Janice Clark’s journey into family history captures the salty bonds of blood and sea, with all that lies beneath: from long held secrets to a broken covenant with the whale.  As cautionary a tale as Melville’s, this is nevertheless a woman’s odyssey, one that creates a kind of longing that lingers far beyond its final pages. I’m telling everyone I know to read this one.” 
 —Brunonia Barry, bestselling author of The Lace Reader

“Full of longing and desire, The Rathbones is a wonder. Janice Clark has written a new chapter of American myth and family legend, an epic tale of adventure-of men who go off to sea and the women who wait for them until they can wait no longer. Mercy Rathbone, the 15-year-old girl whose odyssey is at the story's core, is a brilliant creation, who will haunt your memory long after you turn the final page.”
 -Keith Donohue, New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child

"The Rathbones is a gorgeous, gothic tale of a seafaring family and their dark secrets, passed through generations.  Reminiscent of Melville, Janice Clark’s writing is inventive and astonishing in its sensuousness and attention to historic details."
-Kathleen Kent, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“If Faulkner's Snopes family from Yoknapatawpha County had gone to sea, they might have become the Rathbones: generations of men whose impossible goal was to tame the ocean and slay its leviathans -- but whose story, in the end, could only be told by a woman.  Janice Clark has fit the whole world into this beautiful and capacious book, proving that it's not only life that came from the sea, but language and love as well.”
-Daniel Wallace, bestselling author of Big Fish and The Kings and Queens of Roam

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385536933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385536936
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Birman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Literary novels (and this is most definitely one) are not easily assimilated. It often takes time to absorb a beautifully crafted, well-structured and meaningful work of fiction. Literary novels cannot be reduced to a simple description so whatever professional reviewers have concocted as a tagline for Janice Clarke's debut novel The Rathbones will inevitably be misleading. This is not Moby Dick meets Homer's The Odyssey and readers expecting anything resembling such a strange hybrid will be disappointed. What The Rathbones is most akin to, in my mind at least, is Stanislaw Lem's psychological-fantasy-symbolist novel Solaris in which a strange living sea on another world holds a mirror up to the lives of its human protagonists. This is as close to a description of the complexity and depth of The Rathbones as I am capable of making.

There are a few distasteful events in the novel that may disturb some readers. Life is filled with distasteful events. Readers should not confuse descriptions of what people are capable of inflicting on each other and themselves with approbation of those events. The Rathbones is an honest novel and should be applauded for its truthfulness. But the novel does not focus on the unsavory. If anything, The Rathbones is fixated on the magical sphere that surrounds us: the strangeness, the beauty and some of the horror that makes up the world and our uncertain role in it. To the extent that there is an undertone of magic in the novel, albeit magic of the sea and the elements, The Rathbones can be called a novel of "magical realism". Sophisticated readers who enjoy writers like Charles de Lint will probably feel at home here. The Rathbones is a superb first novel and I am eagerly awaiting further work by author Janice Clark.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Rathbones is a gothic tale about the mystery of the Rathbone family, once a large and prosperous whaling clan. Mercy, a fifteen year old girl is in the Rathbone mansion which has suffered from decay. It is located on the sea in Connecticut and she has never left it. Her father has been on a whaling mission for ten years and has not returned in that time. Her mother walks the widow walk and looks for him. However, she is cold to Mercy and has a male friend who is scary and attempts to harm Mercy. Mercy, along with her cousin and tutor, Mordecai, arrange to leave their home in Connecticut and take a boat out to sea. They are chased by the mysterious man in blue but manage to get to Mouse Island which is populated by a large group of women who weave day and night. They welcome both Mercy and Mordicai and tell them something about their history and the importance of their sons for whaling.

Whaling was the sole occupation of Moses Rathbone, the progenitor of the Rathbone clan. He was said to have salt water in his veins and was one with the whales and the sea. He started a large fleet of whaling vessels manned by the sons of his many wives. As Mercy and Mordicai travel from island to island, they learn more and more about their family.

The story is told from different vantage points in time and by different people, primarily in the 18th and 19th century. <

To be quite honest, I had a lot of trouble following the book and can not say that it grabbed me to any extent. However, it is very unusual and well-written. I was just not that interested in the story of the Rathbones.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This book tells the story of the mysterious Rathbone family and is told through different narrators at different points in time. The oldest narrator is Moses Rathbone who as a young boy in 1761 started the families obsession with whaling off of Naiwayonk, Connecticut.

Our main protagonist is young Mercy Rathbone and her story starts out 1859 as she is watching her mother Verity pacing upstairs awaiting the return of her papa - who has been away almost 10 long years at sea. Is the father dead? And what has happened to him?

Mercy's mother seems very cold and distant from her daughter and when something happens that drives Mercy from the house, she goes on a sea voyage with her cousin Mordecai - an odd man who has lived in the attic. During this voyage, Mercy will gradually learn her family's history and as she does so, she continually updates a family tree. By the end of this strange yet fascinating novel, the tree is complete.

This is a very odd book to review and this was a very different reading experience for me. The book is not told in the usual straight narrative form and the story winds back and forth in time and is told in fantastical and wildly descriptive ways. Reminiscent of the Odyssey on many levels, Mercy witnesses and experiences things not from this world - yet by the time you finish you realize you have read a story about very real human trials and tribulations.

When I first started the book, I wasn't sure it was my cuppa. I usually don't like mystical or fantastical reads unless the story is pretty straightforward. In fact about 1/3 through I didn't think I was going to care for it that much. But I can tell you that I read this book in two sittings and that by the time I turned the last page I realized how special it was. Terrific story with a wonderful denouement.

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