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Fortune's Rocks: A Novel Paperback – Deluxe Edition, November 3, 2015
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Hester Prynne never had it so good! The year is 1899, and Olympia Biddeford, the headstrong daughter of a Boston Brahmin family, has decided to test the limits of her cloistered world. Spending the summer at her father's New Hampshire estate, the teenage heroine of Fortune's Rocks is entranced with the visiting salon of artists, writers, and lawyers. She's especially captivated, however, by John Haskell, a charismatic physician who ministers to the blue-collar community in the nearby mill towns. This middle-aged Good Samaritan hires Olympia to assist him as a nurse, and their collaboration soon evolves into a fiery love affair. Alas, it's only a matter of weeks before this passionate exercise in managed care is exposed--with disastrous consequences for the young, impregnated heroine. Even her adoring father now considers her "an overplump sixteen-year-old girl whose judgment can no longer be trusted," and insists that she break off her relationship:
"There is nothing more to be said on this subject," he says. She bites her lip to keep from crying out further. She holds the arms of her chair so tightly she later will have cramps in her fingers. She will refuse to obey him, she thinks. She will accept his implied challenge and set off on her own. But in the next moment, she asks herself: How will she be able to do that? Without her father's support, she cannot hope to survive. And if she herself does not survive, then a child cannot live."In the end, Anita Shreve's seventh novel is a polished, supremely entertaining variation on Wuthering Heights, with Olympia and Haskell sitting in for Catherine and Heathcliff. The author did some meticulous research for her New England background, which gives this study of one particular wayward woman some extra historical heft. Some readers may find the plot twists a bit pat. And despite Olympia's efforts to be an independent woman, she overcomes her trials largely as a result of her family's wealth and station, which takes the edge off Shreve's feminist message. Still, Fortune's Rocks is a romance in the classic sense of the word, and should be enjoyed as such, unless the reader is absolutely allergic to happy endings. --Ted Leventhal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The time is the turn of the last century, the setting a rocky New Hampshire coastline resort area nicknamed "Fortune's Rocks." Olympia Biddeford, age 15, is walking the beach, feeling the first stirrings of her womanhood. The strong-willed daughter of an upstanding Boston couple, she soon "learns of desire" as she begins a passionate affair with a married writer, John Haskell, three times her age. From the moment they meet (he is a visiting friend of her father's), they experience a sexual sparkAOlympia feels "liquid" in his presence. Soon, they fall into sinful trysting. Shreve (The Pilot's Wife) serves up these opening events with breathless immediacy. Once the plot gets a chance to developAOlympia gets pregnant, gives up child, fights to get child backAit settles down considerably, turning into a modernized The Scarlet Letter, a tale of a woman attaining feminist independence by living outside her period's societal mores. Reading, Brown (of TV's The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) clearly has the most fun at the beginning, where the story's real heat and flushed excitement pours out. Listeners, too, may grow colder as the plot loses its torrid, forbidden edge. Based on the 1999 Little, Brown hardcover. (Dec.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But I kept reading, almost helpless to stop. Anita Shreve is a fine storyteller and as a native of the New Hampshire coast, I am a sucker for novels set there. I think she does a fine job of getting it right. It was also easy to picture the fictitious textile mill town and its immigrant population just miles from the coast that plays a major role in the story.
It was more than the landscape of Fortune's Rocks, however, that kept me hooked. A novel centered on an inappropriate and tragic affair is populated with very likable, even normal characters (save one, almost comically obsequious dweeb). And when these likable people step off the edge with disastrous consequences, readers, at least this one, ponder their own edges walked each day...maybe a secret friendship hidden from a spouse, or power exerted over an employee or family member that goes a little beyond appropriate, or a deceitful business relationship, or...? What is it that keeps most of us on the safe side of the edge? And how safe is that safe side?
In Fortune's Rocks, Anita Shreve moves freely into this reader's discomfort zone, yet this move seems somehow non-intrusive. There seems to be a way out. Her characters seem to do all the right things after the catastrophic event. And should any of us fall off that edge, it may be too much to expect that almost everything turn out so right at the end. For life is not a novel.
My main problem with this book is the "love" between 15 year old Olympia and 41 year old John. This relationship is based purely on sex. There was nothing written to make the reader believe otherwise. It bothered me quite a bit that I was supposed to find both of these characters sympathetic and buy into their feelings for each other.
Another aspect of the story that bothered me was the fact that Olympia continued to have her father's wealth to support her even during her self-imposed exile. She never had to work for anything, which I think detracted from the story.
Shreve has always been a "hit or miss" author for me and this one was definetly a miss.
The young lady is an intelligent, disciplined and gently reared 15 year old child, who suddenly and absurdly is compelled to seduce a middle aged family man. He himself is swept away with need for her unto self destruction and the destruction of all those he loves. This is supposed to be a 'great love' but there is virtually no dialogue between the two excepting their desire for each other. The girl instigates the affair, pursuing him until she has her way with him, and it doesn't take much. This is a child who has never before TOUCHED a man other than her father, unless it were a handshake under his very watchful eye. She is moved to this wanton behavior on the very day she first realizes a man may want her sexually, outlined in a scene on the beach where she is ogled by sunbathing men.
A large part of the story is how this innocent child instantly becomes a skilled, shameless liar in order to hide her affair and it is not portrayed as being at all far-fetched or regrettable.
The lovers are betrayed and publicly outed when they are caught DOING IT at Olympia's own lavish society 16th birthday gala. The following story line has her behaving with the self control of a 60 year old headmistress as she copes with losing her illegitimate child, her lover, her & her family's ruin in high society, the devastation of her lover's family, and being sent to a Dickensian type girls seminary, and subsequently out to work. If only she'd had such composure when she had a crush on her Dad's friend!
Finally she runs back to the parents boarded up beach house (ah but now it's lonely, cold winter – see the symbolysm?) abandoning her job and school and lives off her father's money. She determines to sue the adoptive parents for the now 3 year old child – again with her Father's money, and of course her lawyer falls for her (and her previously uber-controlling Dad comes crawling back to support our redoubtable heroine). She wins the case, but instantaneously sees that she can't take the child from the only parents it has ever known. GAWD. Her lover comes back to her, they marry and open a home for unwed mother's at the family beach house. Sickeningly, they only accept girls who will not give up their illegitimate children for adoption. The last pages have the lost child returned to the lovers upon the deaths of both adoptive parents. Cue self satisfaction of the girl.
I laughed out loud when I read the author interview at the back where she compares herself to Edith Wharton. I wish, like Wharton, she stuck to what she knew. It isn't turn of the century social drama.