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The Edge of the Earth: A Novel Hardcover – April 2, 2013
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Guest Review of “Edge of the Earth”
By Kate Alcott
The Edge of the Earth begins with a classic scenario for adventure or disaster: a restless young woman in 1897 Milwaukee, hungry for experience, chafes at the idea of marrying predictably and living a comfortably predictable life – so she marries a dreamer, another restless soul – and off they go to ---what?
This is where Christina Schwarz’s outstanding novel swoops into refreshingly new territory. She invites us into the lives of the young couple, Trudy and Oskar, as they arrive to work at a lonely, rugged lighthouse above the forbidding cliffs of Point Lucia, California – an isolated spot filled with marine life that few have seen before and, perhaps, a mermaid.
The only other inhabitants of the lighthouse are the sturdy members of the Crawley family, including three children living wild and free. Mrs. Crawley kindly but quickly strips away for Trudy any illusion that, at the lighthouse, there is a use for fancy tablecloths – or anything else from her former privileged existence. The human secrets begin to emerge – and as you learn what they are, you will almost hear the shouts of the children and the crashing waves. And then….
But wait. This isn’t just an adventure story. What is the truth about Point Lucia?
Though Trudy is slowly drawn to nature, collecting marine samples, studying artifacts, finding excitement in documenting the creatures within a tide pool, the real heart of her experience lies with one major discovery: that of a strange creature who lives hidden in the rocks above the crashing surf.
That discovery slowly cuts between Trudy and Oskar – who, more than they realize, are indeed poised on the edge of the earth they know. It is a convergence of discovery with the grasping need to possess that takes us into the dark, eager heart of an emerging capitalist America.
In short, it’s not just about a marriage and an isolated lighthouse. This book explores the turn-of-the-century American psyche- what is won, what is lost – when, inevitably, everything changes. Once you step onto that lonely outpost, surrounded by the sea and all the mysteries within, you are immersed. Inhale deeply – you are there, caught in the roiling energy of passion, regret, loss – and always the sea. In short, The Edge of the Earth is a bold and original story that goes beyond self-discovery.
*Starred Review* In turn-of-the-century Milwaukee, the lovely, refined Gertrude Swann has a well-planned future with a well-connected fiancé and a well-stocked trousseau. But when a distant cousin breezes into town, she finds herself married and living on the remote coast of California with a man she realizes she barely knows. Her new husband has taken the post of assistant lighthouse keeper, and their only companions are the family of the chief keeper, including his four children. It’s a difficult transition, eating canned food and living in rustic conditions, but Trudy finds that her new life has unexpected rewards. Shedding her corsets along with her leisure, she begins teaching the children and studying the marine life of the coast. The discovery of an Indian woman living nearby tests the values and priorities of all the members of their small community. This novel is a wonderful story and a deep meditation on the meaning of work and knowledge. It’s also a compelling imagining of its time and place, making it a good choice for lovers of historical fiction. --Lynn Weber
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Top Customer Reviews
I found the first 75% of the book dragged and I considered quitting it. It seemed to have no plot. One of the things that it did however is let me get to know the characters and to get a good understanding of their personalities and emotions. Nonetheless, it was fairly boring. The last 25% was quite interesting though. As I think back on the book, the boredom I experienced is perhaps a reflection of Trudy's experience when she first arrives at the lighthouse where she has no way to communicate with family and friends.
In 1898, this part of the world was then the end of the world, away from civilization. Newly wed Truly and her husband, Oskar, moved here when this was only mountains and ocean. This is Big Sur country, Port Lucia, California. Oskar is to be the assistant lighthouse keeper, the lighthouse is wedged between the ocean and the mountains, a bleak area. The couple travel from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Readers are told of their trip across country.
Trudy is an only child, her parents are well to do and spoil her. She is to marry a boy she had grown up with. But she met Oskar, her fiance's cousin, and was swept away. He is a soldier of fortune and will make her life exciting. People warned her against him. She didn't listen. She wants to travel the world.
Living in this lonely outpost are the Crawleys, Henry and Euphemia, an earth mother type, she is my favorite character, Archie Johnson, Mrs. Crawley's brother and their four children, two boys, two girls. The Crawleys are outgoing, gregarious folks who live in this lonely lighthouse for a reason. The kids know nothing of society, they have always lived at the lighthouse. Trudy is to be their teacher. Trudy is so unused to living in a crowded apartment, one apartment for the Swans, one for Archie Johnston, one for the Crawleys and their four kids. Lacking in privacy, rough coarse furniture, dishes, silverware, no place for Trudy to wear her beautiful clothes. A ship comes in two or three times a year bringing supplies which the group is happy to receive. This is fun and like Christmas for them, canned food, books, warn out clothes, nails, flour, other articles for cooking or other uses. Just what is only needed in their lives. The group sees people from the outside rarely. They never get away from this eerie and unworldy place. The children tell Trudy there is a mermaid living in a cave by the ocean.
Oskar Swan has dreams and ideas that never come to fruition. He is going to be rich, to become famous, to do well in life. The grown up characters are unlikeable, especially Oskar Swann and Archie Johnston. The Crawley parents are nice. Trudy is o.k. but lost in the world she has chosen for herself. Then she comes to love this life and wants nothing else. She is a scientific type. She begins studying ocean life and starts a business sending dried bottled ocean specimens to labs and schools all over the United States, Canada and Mexico. Her favorite college professor was Miss Dodd, biology.
This book is sad, bleak and contains lonely characters out of touch with life.