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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read - beautifully constructed
Anita Shreve is one of my favourite writers. She writes books that are beautifully constructed with lyrical prose that carries the reader along.
In this new novel Shreve takes the setting from two of her previous books, Fortune's Rocks and The Pilot's Wife. The period in time of this book falls betweens that of these previous two books. The story is told from the...
Published on 31 Mar. 2002

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3.0 out of 5 stars Trouble at the Mill
Shreve returns in this novel to the house in Ely Falls where Olympia Biddeford lived in 'Fortune's Rocks'. Thirty years and more have passed, Olympia and John have gone (where to we never know - surely the likelihood would be that Olympia at least would still be alive?) and the house is now being rented by Sexton Beecher, a travelling typewriter salesman, and his young...
Published 10 months ago by Kate Hopkins


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read - beautifully constructed, 31 Mar. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Anita Shreve is one of my favourite writers. She writes books that are beautifully constructed with lyrical prose that carries the reader along.
In this new novel Shreve takes the setting from two of her previous books, Fortune's Rocks and The Pilot's Wife. The period in time of this book falls betweens that of these previous two books. The story is told from the viewpoint of numerous characters which span the social classes in the town of Ely Falls.
The story centres on two characters, Honora and Sexton Beecher who are newlyweds. They move to the town of Ely Falls where they buy a house. Unfortunately events take a turn for the worse and they are financially ruined. Sexton is forced to take a job at the local mill where workers like McDermott, another character who tells the story, are setting up a union and attempting to fight for the rights of workers. It is a story that raises interesting moral issues from this period in history, child labour and the oppression of manual workers. This is juxtaposed with Vivian's story, a young society girl in a privileged position.
This is another wonderful story from a fantastic writer who never fails to maintain reader interest.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and emotional novel, 26 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Sea Glass is partly set in Fortune's Rocks again, and interweaves the famous house from that book and The Pilot's Wife, which adds interest for her readers. I did like this book, but not as much as the other two I mentioned. Hence, the 4 stars. I was interested in the rise of unionism, and the desire for improved working conditions and pay in the factory. However, I felt some of the lesser characters were a bit too similar.
The use of the collection of sea glass added to the atmosphere of the book, and felt like Anita Shreve territory. I do recommend it - but if it's your first Anita Shreve....then I recommend Fortune's Rocks more.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender, beautifully written story, 12 Jun. 2002
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Anita Shreve weaves a wonderful plot and captures you with her poetic prose from the very first page. Franco-Americans, child labour, poverty, The Great Depression and union movements all feature in this novel. Honora, the heroine, collects sea glass washed up on the beach but her husband, Sexton, describes it as "other people's trash". Yet to Honora, the smoothly rounded edges and pearly hues of the glass are exquisite. They symbolise Honora's escape from their rocky marriage and the gloom of The Great Depression. Perhaps they even represent a glint of hope found in the ruins of the heady days of The Prohibition? The novel weaves strong characters into the story: Alphonse, a Franco-American child from the mills, McDermott his kindly benefactor and Vivien, Honora and Sexton's privileged neighbour. Honora's mother writes to her daughter in short, succinct letters, yet her maternal tenderness and concern are so cleverly revealed.
Having read "The Last Time We Met", I wondered how Anita Shreve would match the ending in Sea Glass. All I can say is that it is poignantly perfect!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visting Familiar places at different times., 5 Dec. 2006
By 
Aly "Weebly" (Northants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
This is the most enjoyable of the more historical Shreve books I have read. Also it is set in the same place as Fortune's Rocks - the main characters live in a house formerly owned by the main people in that previous novel - which is lovely to recognise parts even though the stories and characters are unrelated. Also there is a side story in another Shreve Book - A Wedding in December - which although being set in more modern times features a character fascinated about an event which occured in Halifax harbour in the past. The same event appears in this book in the history of Honora's Uncle. It was another small part which you would not miss if this is the first Shreve book you have read - but it really added to my enjoyment of the book recognising places and events. Excellent story - wonderful characters - un-putdownable!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Period fiction with a difference, 3 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
I love Anita Shreve - her work is unique amongst novelists in that while I'm reading her books real time seems to stand still. I find myself so locked up in her made-up world that I lose sense of where I am and everything going on around me becomes muted white noise. I don't think another author has ever delivered that depth of escapism for me.

This book was a gift and I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as 'The Pilot's Wife' and some of Shreve's other books that I'd read and loved, but in fact it was superbly written and full of interest, especially the workers' rights aspect and the link of the house to the present day in her other works. She is a craftsman in her field - not to be mistaken with so many other novelists churning out period pap for the masses.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sea glass itself, 25 Aug. 2002
By 
Rats (Milan Italy) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Delicious, sad book. Its refrain, the sea glass picked up by protagonist Honora and others, reminds of a nice folk story - unlikely to be well known in the UK - that seems pertinent to me. Here it is.
In Neapolitan tradition - in fact, also in a song and in Indian folklore - the sea lays on the shore "'e pazzielle", the little mad things ("crazelettes"?), which are a metaphor for the little things of everyday life, that give people their memory and their symbolisms. They mean life for those picking them, but cannot compete with the big swells - the forces of history - which ultimately take charge on people's lives, so the crazelettes are washed away and get forgotten.
The book's story, and the book itself, are just like that. Had Shreve not written it, few would have known of the Honoras and McDermotts of the 1930s. Swept by the Great Depression, the strikes, the thugs, they would lie unknown. And reading the book is like picking sea glass. Of course, the beauty of it is in the eye of the beholder - not all reviews on the US Amazon site are favorable - but my own eye certainly beheld it. I advise trying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, 18 May 2006
By 
P. L. Barrett (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Just finished this book today. At first I thought I didn't really like how it was written - i.e 'she sets the table' - all in the immediate tense, as though you are watching it happen. It took a few pages to get used to this, but finally I realised that it actually suited the whole story really well. I liked the idea of heading each chapter with a characters name, that chapter being the story from their view. This book has definately made me want to read more of Shreve's books. She doesn't get slushy when other authors might so easily fall into that trap, and never sidelines into a pointless scene. The pace is kept up all the way. A story well told; a page turner.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Trouble at the Mill, 22 April 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
Shreve returns in this novel to the house in Ely Falls where Olympia Biddeford lived in 'Fortune's Rocks'. Thirty years and more have passed, Olympia and John have gone (where to we never know - surely the likelihood would be that Olympia at least would still be alive?) and the house is now being rented by Sexton Beecher, a travelling typewriter salesman, and his young bride Honora, a former bank teller who married out of a desperation to escape her dull working life. It seems implausible that someone like Sexton should be able to rent a house described in 'Fortune's Rocks' as huge, but he not only does this, but decides with the help of a hefty mortgage to buy it. Unfortunately the year is 1929, Wall Street crashes just after Sexton's taken on the mortgage, and the couple are soon in serious trouble, particularly as Sexton loses his job. (This isn't a spoiler, we learn it fairly early on). For Honora, the Crash is both bad news (she realizes that she doesn't actually like her husband all that much, and she's desperately short of money) and good (rather than spend her days wandering the beach gathering sea glass as before, she befriends Vivien, a socialite playwright living nearby, and devotes herself to economizing on household things). Sexton eventually gets a job working at the Ely Fall Mills (which Shreve described in great detail in 'Fortune's Rocks'). Conditions are as awful in the mills as they were in that novel, and Sexton is soon part of a group of men planning to strike in protest. The strike brings Honora great joy - particularly in her friendship with Alphonse, a French boy working in the mills, and in her growing closeness to Quillen McDermott, a heroic and plain-speaking factory worker - but also shows her quite how unreliable Sexton is, and leads her and those closest to her into terrible danger...

As always, Shreve's research is immaculate, and she gives a powerful sense of the euphoria at the start of the strike, and the growing anxieties as things go less and less the men's way. However, I found the characters in this book harder to warm to than any in Shreve's other novels (apart from 'All He Ever Wanted', which I didn't enjoy hugely). Honora is rather bland and two-dimensional and I found it hard to understand both what drew her and McDermott together, and why she married Sexton, who was clearly a nasty piece of work. Vivien was a caricature of the 'brilliant socialite with a heart of gold', and Shreve never explained how she got into playwriting, not common for a woman of this background. With the exceptions of McDermott, Alphonse and the Communist Louis, all the mill hands tended to blur rather into one. Alphonse and McDermott were excellent creations, and I really warmed to them and wanted to read more about their friendship - but Shreve's rapid shift between narrators meant we never got quite enough of either of them. The novel also suffered from an extremely leisurely beginning (scene after scene of Honora wandering the beach or baking, and rambling conversations between her and Sexton) which meant that the whole Honora/McDermott side of the plot felt a bit rushed.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book, but somehow I couldn't get involved with most of the characters (particularly the women) in the same way that I did with 'Fortune's Rocks'. Ultimately, despite the drama of the mill strike, I found the book as a whole slightly boring. Still, definitely worth a read (it's quite a quick one), particularly for big Shreve fans.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Love and Hardship, 2 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
At the centre of the story are Honora, bank clerk and Sexton, typewriter salesman who meet and marry at the start of the great depression. The love and hardship they face together is beautifully told by Anita Shreve in her very visual style. I am definitely becoming a fan of her work having now read four of her novels including this one.
The main characters all have chapters assigned to them throughout the novel so we can understand how the story progresses from their point of view. We are introduced in this way to McDermott, mill worker and Alphonse the young boy he has chosen to protect, Vivian, wealthy socialite an unlikely group but whose stories all link and merge. There are also a few chapters written as letters from Honora's mother Alice that helps to link the background information together.

Set in New Hampshire during the troubled years of 1929/30, Sea Glass is about the coming together of a motley collection of people in troubled times. It was a strange time for them all as although the strikes and Wall Street crash were affecting them all they were happy that summer of 1930, in their innocence not knowing how disastrously it would all end. As the reader I certainly had no inkling of how things were going to turn out, for me the sign of a well told story. A heartbreaking and vividly descriptive insight into the far reaching consequences of The Wall Street crash and the mill strikes.

I also found absolutely fascinating the descriptions of Sea Glass, those colourful shards of glass smoothed by the sea that one sometimes comes across on beaches. Anita Shreve cleverly uses Honora's collection of these shards as a link throughout.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ENTERTAINING, 4 Feb. 2003
By 
Heather Negahdar ""Haze"" (Bridgetown, Barbados) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sea Glass (Paperback)
If you like short books, then this one's for you.
Set in the New Hampshire coast, it starts on a rather quiet note.
Honara, a bank teller meets Sexton Beecher a typewriter salesman and in two twos they are "walking up the aisle."
Renting an old beach house, Honora does her best to make it as clean and domesticated as possible, and a fine little place to call home; where she cooks delicious meals, all with Sexton in mind. When she is not doing these homely chores, she is walking the beach collect sea glass of all colours shapes and sizes. Sexton buys a Buick and they seem headed for a life of domestic and wedded bliss. But a turn of events due to the mill workers strike will shatter this safe repose, as the mill workers confront the authorities for more money and life now is different for all concerned.
Amongst the cast of characters you will meet Virginia who befriends Honora, Virginia's friend Dickie, Alphonse and of course McDermott a loom worker at the mill and develops a terrible crush on one of the ladies.
I'm sure that most of Ms. Shreve's followers won't want to pass up on this one. It's a cool read and should delight all.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall
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Sea Glass
Sea Glass by Anita Shreve (Paperback - 21 Nov. 2002)
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