- Hardcover: 275 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1451683677
- ISBN-13: 978-1451683677
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.
I didn't stop reading until I finished it three and a half hours later.
I'll be honest and say that I've read better books; certain narrative tricks and story pacing issues kept this from being a full 5 stars, although I'd say it's a good, solid 4.5. That being said, it's also _fun_ to read. The main characters are interesting and the way they tell the story is straightforward yet intriguing. I wanted to know what happened next because I genuinely wanted to know what happened to Trudy, Jane and Oskar.
I'm not sure why this author is so compelled to write books along this same theme. She's the author of _Drowning Ruth_ and I think she must have a thing for books where people on islands drown in mysterious circumstances. This book was far more enjoyable to me than the maudlin, dismal Oprah-selected _Drowning Ruth_, however. I'd encourage you to give this a try even if you found her previous book about women's rights and mysterious drownings to be a bit logey.
Again, because of the nature of the island and often remote locations where it is done, this plot involves two primary sets of character, the lighthouse keeping families who care for the lighthouse and its hundreds of oil-fueled lanterns as well as the acres of glass and mirrors that reflect the light for the ships at sea. Trudy, the primary protagonist, is a seeking, intelligent, curious woman who is unwilling to settle for the bucolic life of rural Wisconsin and despite some early cautions, falls in love with a man who leads others to believe he is an extraordinary scientist and inventor. Caught in the web of his own self-importance, Trudy accepts his fantasy as a way of her own escape.
While the husband of such grandiose notions is apparently calmed by his failures, the plot is propped up by the discovery of a "mermaid" living in a cave at the water's edge. Adding this exotic creature who turns out to be a natïve American as trapped on the island as are the whites, she lends an exciting mystery to the plot which Trudy is able to follow through to solution. While author Schwartz`s writing skills are awesome, great wondrous descriptions in colorful phrases that make one see things in new ways, the plot itself is too "soft" that is, there's no truly catastrophic even or tragedy to set off bursts of human feelings. It's as if the characters are too "brainy", no matter what happens the light is always there.
"The Edge of the Earth" is interesting in its parade of science and a diverse cast of characters but the clash of conflict never quite takes place among these characters who seem to tolerate any injustice that comes their way. I kept wanting them to throw something against the wall, or wail and kick something ... rather, they continue in their stoic way to the bitter end. The reader of this book, however, will learn a lot about marine biology and botany. That alone is worth the trip.