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Sea Glass: A Novel Paperback – January 21, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 196 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From its opening pages, Anita Shreve's Sea Glass surrounds the reader in the surprisingly rich feeling of the New Hampshire coast in winter. Vividly evoking the life of the coastal community at the beginning of the Great Depression, Sea Glass shifts through the multiple points of view of six principal characters; it's a skillfully created story of braided lives that bounces easily (even inevitably) from character to character. We learn how these lives come together following the stock market crash of 1929 and about the struggles of mill workers on the starkly beautiful New Hampshire coast during the following year. At the novel's center is the story of Honora Beecher, a young newlywed who compulsively collects sea glass along the beach as she collects unexpected friendship in her new beachside community, and Francis, a boy who discovers a father figure in the towering character of McDermott, an Irish mill worker, at a time when he most needs direction. Each character finds unexpected new purpose beyond the struggle to survive during that turbulent year among the dunes. First their lives barely touch, then they intersect, and finally they become inextricably bound. By the powerful and unexpected final scenes of the story, every point of view, every brilliant shard of life depends deeply on all the others. It is a very satisfying read--confidently told and deeply felt--with as many subtle colors and reflections as the sea glass that permeates the narrative. --Paul Ford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In addition to spinning one of her most absorbing narratives, Shreve here rewards readers with the third volume in a trilogy set in the large house on the New Hampshire coast that figured in The Pilot's Wife and Fortune's Rocks. This time the inhabitants are a newly married couple, Sexton and Honora Beecher, both of humble origins, who rent the now derelict house. In a burst of overconfidence, slick typewriter salesman Sexton lies about his finances and arranges a loan to buy the property. When the 1929 stock market crash occurs soon afterward, Sexton loses his job and finds menial work in the nearby mills. There, he joins a group of desperate mill hands who have endured draconian working conditions for years, and now, facing extortionate production quotas and reduced pay, want to form a union. The lives of the Beechers become entwined with the strikers, particularly a principled 20-year-old loom fixer named McDermott and Francis, the 11-year-old fatherless boy he takes under his wing. A fifth major character is spoiled, dissolute socialite Vivian Burton, who is transformed by her friendship with Honora. As Honora becomes aware that Sexton is untrustworthy, she is drawn to McDermott, who tries to hide his love for her. The plot moves forward via kaleidoscopic vignettes from each character's point of view, building emotional tension until the violent, rather melodramatic climax when the mill owners' minions confront the strikers. Shreve is skilled at interpolating historical background, and her descriptions of the different social strata the millworkers, the lower-middle-class Sextons, the idle rich enhance a touching story about loyalty and betrayal, responsibility and dishonor. This is one of Shreve's best, likely to win her a wider audience. 6-city author tour. (Apr. 9) Forecast: Expectations of brisk sales, indicated by the one-day laydown, will likely be achieved. Readers should find timely resonance in the setting of 1920s economic turbulence.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316089699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316089692
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Anita Shreve's latest book, "Sea Glass," is a quiet novel that deals with the universal themes of life, love, loss, hope, beauty, tragedy and death.
"Sea Glass" begins in 1929, when Sexton Beecher, a typewriter salesman, marries bank clerk, Honora. They decide to make their home in a rather dalipidated, but still romantic, New England beach house. Honora is a fulltime wife and homemaker and besides the usual things all wives and homemakers do, Honora loves to take long walks on the beach and collect bits of colored glass worn smooth as silk by the waves of the sea. Eventually, Honora meets and becomes friends with Vivian, a wealthy woman who happens to live nearby. The world seems, at least to Honora, to be an almost perfect place.
When things are too good, they usually don't last and Honora learns this lesson the hard way. The Great Depression causes problems for Sexton and Honora, but it brings Honora unexpected pleasures as well, in the form of handsome Quillen McDermott and his twelve year old friend, Francis.
This is a book that is told from the point of view of many of the characters involved. In almost every case this works, and it works well. The exceptions are Vivian and Francis. In the early sections of the book, Vivian plays such a prominent part that we come to believe she will be an integral part of the coming storyline as well. Instead, she seems to fade a little more with each passing scene.
Francis is also problematic. His chapters are written in long sentences that let us know he is smart, but lacks the education he should have at his age. This wouldn't be bad in and of itself.
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Format: Hardcover
Fortune's Rock, the setting of two of Anita Shreve's earlier books once again plays a significant role in her newest title, Sea Glass. It is to a house in the area of Fortune's Rock located in England, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and a secluded beach, that newly married Honora and Sexton move to in June of 1929. Honora looks forward to keeping house while Sexton will continue his job as traveling typewriter salesman. The house they occupy is rather run down but in lieu of rent, Sexton has agreed to fix it up for the owners. But when the house becomes available for them to buy and while they don't have all of the money, Sexton jumps at the opportunity to purchase it for their futures. Unfortunately, for this couple and other characters in the book, the stock market crash is only weeks away and will ultimately test them economically but also emotionally. In an eerily foreboding manner reminiscent of Shreve's earliest works, the author depicts the lives of characters caught up in events that will shatter their world as the book takes hold and readers race towards the climactic ending.
Told in alternating voices are a cast of wonderful character whom Shreve portrays so well that we feel as though we know them. In addition to Sexton and Honora who spends time collecting sea glass on the beach, there is also the very wealthy Vivian who meets Honora on the beach and her one time lover and once wealthy Dickie. Rounding out the characters are McDermott, a factory worker and labor organizer and his protégé 11 year old Alphonse who dreams of becoming a pilot. These are vivid characters we come to care about whose stories once set in motion, keep the reader wondering how their lives will play our and what will become of them at the end of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Anita Shreve's books. This one wasn't as good as A Pilot's Wife or The Weight of Water.
Her latest book tells the story of the stock market crash in 1929. We see the struggle of the mill workers and the impact of such a horrendous economic blow to all of the various social classes. Honora Beecher is at the centre of the story though the novel is told from 5 different perspectives.
Shreve is an outstanding writer in that she uses wonderful, descriptive language and she can explore the human condition and the range of emotions like few other authors. I enjoyed this part of the book, but the story was a little too slow. I felt that some of the characters just didn't come to life like they could have...Vivian, the jaded socialite especially.
Overall, this was a good book, just not her best.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first, Anita Shreve's latest novel had me shaking my head in frustration. I couldn't discern among the many short chapters and their main characters, all seemingly unrelated. I found myself flipping back and forth between chapters to remind myself of who was who. And then something miraculous began to happen: the characters began to cross paths, one by one, and their wildly different lives started to converge. The plot unexpectedly had structure and direction. By the time I reached the end, I was amazed by Shreve's fictive abilities to take a quiet group of character studies to such an explosive conclusion.
Set in a New Hampshire mill town and the nearby coast just before and during the Great Depression, the novel follows several principals affected by the greed of the mill owners. This is typical Shreve territory described in her characteristic starkly beautiful prose. Impatient readers might give up on Shreve's painstaking preparation for the final half of the novel, but the rewards are worth the slow start.
Men might find this title more hospitable than other Shreve titles; her male characters here are strongly drawn and interesting. Although the women tend to be the unbreakable sea glass, the men drive the plot.
I recommend this book for readers of literary fiction and reading groups, the last because Shreve offers history, metaphor, and multidimensional issues - much to talk about. Pass on this if you are in the mood for a page-turner.
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