- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (April 26, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143035347
- ISBN-13: 978-0143035343
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 85 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier Paperback – April 26, 2005
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“A thorough and engaging history of Maine’s rocky coast and its tough-minded people.”
“Delves deeply and reflectively into the history of the coast of Maine and its people.”
—The Boston Globe
“[A] well-researched and well-written cultural and ecological history of stubborn perseverance.”
“Lively. . . . Woodard uses the fishermen of Monhegan Island as the focus for a broad historical sweep, ranging from the settlers who arrived in Maine a decade before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, to onslaughts from Indian tribes, raids by the French and an influx of ‘rusticators’ who put the state on the map as an idyllic holiday destination. The author suggests that Maine's isolated lobster-fishing communities continue to embody Jefferson’s Utopian vision of America—‘an egalitarian republic of small, self-sufficient producers, where democracy is practiced directly by the citizens, and aristocratic privilege is unrecognized or unknown.’”
“A beautifully considered history . . . Woodard’s admiration for lobster culture is stirring . . . [Mainers’] feisty pluck remains undiminished in the face of obstacles.”
“Woodard doesn’t disguise his pique with the forces at work. Maine is worth fighting for—as is any village with distinctly etched local character and community.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“Thought-provoking . . . Woodard is a talented writer, a skilled journalist. . . . lively reading for history buffs . . . an important book for any Maine lover’s bookshelf.”
—Bangor Daily News
“Meticulous . . .For those who received the sanitized version of American history in elementary school, the truth comes as a bit of a shock.”
—The Ottowa Review
“A feast . . . Woodard uses the lobster to tell the whole history of Maine.”
“Highly engaging, intelligent.”
“A stellar informal history . . . The Lobster Coast is a cautionary tale, superbly told, riveting and deserving of much attention. It is a primer for land use, conservation, and the effects of bad politics.”
—The Kingston Observer (Massachusetts)
“Fascinating . . . horrifying account of political intrigue and bloody battles between French and English, Indians and English, colonists and just about everybody else, all of which, for better or for worse, shaped the Down East Yankee character . . . I’d make The Lobster Coast required reading.”
—Bar Harbor Times
“A rocketing speed-boat ride through Maine’s history—with an underlying engine hum of ecological awareness and concern.”
“The Lobster Coast tells the lobster’s tale in satisfying depth and breadth. . . . Woodard writes about his native state and its ungainly mascot with grace and authority, shining a clear light through the mystery and lore that have long surrounded both.”
—Northern Sky News
About the Author
Colin Woodard is a Maine native and the author of Oceans End: Travels Through Endangered Seas and The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Him Down. He is a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and the San Francisco Chronicle.
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Colin Woodard, a Maine native, with a deep appreciation for this region on the fringe of the northeast center's of population, writes with engaging detail of the challenges of living on Maine's coast, while showing how the long term residents have a deep since of rootedness of place. A good half of this 300 page work is an overview of Maine's history from the beginning of European colonization to the present day. While relatively short, this overview, with vivid told details, shows how the residents of these shores, from natives, to colonizers to those facing the brunt of closing paper mills and fish processing plants, have faced being overrun by outside influencers. Reading this, you can certainly understand why Maine is so much different and out of the orbit of the rest of the northeast, and see why a spirit of self determination has become part of the character of those who live in this rich, but hard land.
Woodard writes with great detail to show the importance of ecology and the interconnectedness of how people relate to resources and each other. For instance, his accounts of how modern, suburban housing subdivisions and retail centers work counter to productive uses of labor and the traditional ways of life is important. Also, his work shows how scientists who study the ecology of lobsters, the collapse of the cod and haddock fish stocks and how understanding the role of harvesting and nurturing sea life is more than a function of data, but is in every way of ecology and understanding how multiple systems depend on each other.
Repeatedly, the Lobster Coast shows a tension of living. This tension is best described as one that works on how individuals work together, but struggle against hard circumstances, while often working against outside influences that simply want to extract resources in ways that ultimately harm the land and people more than it can replenish.
While a social and cultural history of the edge of the northeastern USA, this work also can show how many regions struggle to make a living in the midst of post industrial, global capitalism. The Lobster Coast was written in the years before the 2008 Financial Crisis, so the elements that stretched so many have only accelerated in Maine since then, and the suburbinazation of the Maine coast has continued in fits and starts, and more mills have shut for good.
As history that connects how many different elements create a culture that still works to maintain an identity, this is a very engaging read and well worth the time to think through.
He has a way of combining present day Maine with historical Maine; Maine seen through his eyes, the eyes of those he interviews, and words written down centuries ago. They all flow together seamlessly, creating a fluid history of this amazing state.
Perhaps it is because generations of my father's family have been born, lived and died in the Pine Tree state.
Maybe it is because I have fished and set lobster traps commercially in New England, and have seen the boom and collapse of the industry:the boom due to plentiful stocks of cod and other groundfish, and the collapse due to over fishing and poor fisheries management.
It might be in part because I know many of the places of which he speaks.
In the end, I think it is all of these, and maybe none of these.
Colin Woodard is simply the best writer of U.S. history I have read.
If you are looking for names and dates, you will find many here. If you are recalling history as written in school textbooks, you are in for a very happy surprise. His history books real like novels, but they are better. Unlike James Michener's historical novels, however, all the information cited in Mr. Woodard's books is true. The people and the events are real. They happened, and many continue to happen to this day.
You will come away from reading this book with a hunger for more information. Maybe, if you haven't visited coastal Maine, you will decide to do so. And if you do visit Maine, or perhaps even live there, you will gain new insights into the forces, both natural and man made, that shaped this great state.
Woodward begins his tale with an extended vignette of the small but long-lived fishing outpost of Monhegan Island, whose European history dates at least to 1605. Succeeding chapters chronicle the European struggle to settle Maine, battling the native Indian tribes, neighboring French colonies in Canada, the difficult climate, and the poor agricultural prospects of much of the state. Somehow, a small population scratched out a hardscrabble existence in Maine, heavily dependent on the bounty of the Gulf of Maine for survival and economic success.
Woodward carries his narrative to the present, mixing elements of history, culture, geography and fisheries science in interesting proportions. At his endpoint, the qualities that make Maine and its people unique are shown to be under threat from successive waves of outsiders trying, usually without conscious malice, to turn the state into just another piece of the East Coast I-95 sprawl. The outcome remains in doubt, while "The Lobster Coast" is very highly recommended.