Friday, November 05, 2010


The Edge of Darkness, Mary Ellen Chase, W W Norton & Company Inc, 1957, 235 pp

 Up to this point, my reading in 1957 has been quite divided between a new style and an old one. The old style is one which has been the predominate style since 1940, where I began My Big Fat Reading Project. Good solid literary writing, nothing flashy and addressing aspects of human nature. Sex and passion are alluded to but only in "tasteful" terms. 

 The Edge of Darkness,  one in that older style, is set in Maine, as are most of Chase's novels. In a very small coastal town, the oldest woman has died. She was a relic of the times when the area was based on shipping and sea voyages around the world by sailing ship. Her husband was a ship's captain and she sailed the world with him several times.

 Now those days are far in the past and the villagers are an odd collection of fishermen, shopkeepers and impoverished flotsam. In her neat yet beautiful sentences, the author describes these people with their foibles and problems. We learn about the old woman who died through their eyes.

 With no actual plot and not much excitement, it is a contemplative read. The caricature of a town faded from its former glory is a prominent theme in American literature with the old wealthy citizens versus the current struggling ones. Richard Russo is one of the modern masters of this theme. Recently when I read Olive Kitteridge I found it again. The Edge of Darkness is more portrait than story.

(The Edge of Darkness is another book from the 1950s that is out of print. Try the library or a used book seller.)

No comments:

Post a Comment