Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: The House on Oyster Street

Summary: Sensitive but practical, Charlotte Tradescome has come to accept the reticence of her older, work-obsessed husband Henry. Still, she hopes to create a life for their three-year-old daughter. So when Henry inherits a home on Cape Cod, she, Henry, and little Fiona move from their Manhattan apartment to this seaside community. Charlotte sells off part of Tradescome Point, inadvertently fueling the conflict between newcomers and locals. Many townspeople easily dismiss Charlotte as a "washashore." A rare exception is Darryl Stead, an oyster farmer with modest dreams and an open heart, with whom Charlotte feels the connection she's been missing. Ultimately he transforms the way she sees herself, the town, and the people she loves... -- NAL Accent

I think I might be in a little reading rut. As I mentioned a few days ago, I've read quite a few books that I positively adored in the past few weeks -- for which I'm very grateful. But I'm afraid that it might have altered my expectations for books. The past few books I've read have been good (and even very good), but not great in my opinion. The latest one is THE HOUSE ON OYSTER STREET by Heidi Jon Schmidt. I have a feeling that if I had read this novel at a different time, I might have enjoyed it a great deal more.

Having said that, I did like THE HOUSE ON OYSTER STREET, but I just didn't love it. Most of my issues were of a personal nature and not related to the quality of this book. I thought this novel had a great deal of potential based on its description because I do enjoy women's fiction and especially books about a woman discovering herself; however, I just didn't feel like I related to the character enough to take my enjoyment to the next level. I did appreciate the author's writing style though and I thought she did a very good job with the story.

There were many things about this book that did work for me including much of the character development as well as the author's portrayal of the setting; however, I admit that I had a hard time with the character of Charlotte's husband Henry. For the vast majority of the book, he just seemed like such a flat character to me and I wanted more from him. I'm pretty sure that I would have appreciated his character more if some of his complexities came out earlier in the story, and I think a "human" (and realistic) portrayal of Henry might have added to the dynamics of Charlotte's relationship with Darryl.

I also found myself having a hard time accepting Charlotte. It's not that I didn't like her -- she was a good mother with a huge heart, but I was conflicted with some of her actions. One on hand, I liked that she was complex and not entirely predictable, but on the other hand, I just wasn't sure I always believed some of her feelings. I understand that she was a woman who felt the need to "save" people; and obviously, I'm missing that gene. But her need to help others brought her a lot of stress and heartache. It not only caused her to marry Henry (because he was childlike and needed her), but it also affected her drastic move to Wellfleet as well as her desire to "save" the fishermen (and one in particular.)

One thing I did appreciate a great deal about this novel was the author's writing style. She is a beautiful writer and her descriptions of Cape Cod and its community were incredible. As I read this book, I could absolutely picture not only the sand and water, but I could also see all of the characters about town. Without a doubt, she brought this community to life for the reader. I could almost feel the wind and waves as well as the bitter cold winter. In addition, I appreciated how she captured what it is like for a person to move into an established community. I thought Charlotte's feelings on this subject matter were spot on, and I also thought the townspeople's actions were appropriate.

I did appreciate many of the themes of this novel including all of the various meanings of love; however, I'm not entirely sure about how I feel about the ending. In some ways, I admit that I felt a little bit let down; but in other ways, I thought it was a pretty realistic resolution. As I read this book, I wanted a happy ending for Charlotte and her daughter, but I just wasn't entirely sure that that encompassed. I have a feeling that each reader will have their own opinion about how things ended up for Charlotte and her family.

Despite my misgivings with some of the characters and their actions, I do feel as if THE HOUSE ON OYSTER STREET would make a terrific book club pick. Just as I had a few issues relating to Charlotte, I'm pretty sure that many of the women in my group would totally "get" her. I think the disagreement would make for some pretty interesting discussion. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide, but some of the topics you could explore include love, marriage, fidelity, mother-daughter relationships, new beginnings, courage, wealth, class distinctions, guilt, redemption, and sacrifice.

I have a feeling that many of you will absolutely love this book. I do recommend it for book clubs as well as people who enjoy women's fiction. It definitely would be an entertaining book to read by the beach or pool this summer.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.

10 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I have known women who wanted to "save" every person they meet, so I might get Charlotte a little more than you did. I just love the cover of that book.

Kay said...

I had some of the same feelings as you, Julie, but I think I liked the book a little more. The writing was beautiful wasn't it? I couldn't stand the husband at first and it made my reading slow at that point. Later, I liked how she developed the characters to show some of the reasons why people reacted or acted as they did.

Sandy Nawrot said...

It seems like the type of book that would be incredibly atmospheric. Moods can totally dictate your response to a book though. I've had a couple of examples of that lately. I just had no tolerance for certain characters.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's too bad this didn't work for you. I agree with Kathy, though, that you have to love the cover of the book! Just the cover makes me want to pick up and go there!

Beth Hoffman said...

Though this book ultimately wasn't your cuppa, I really enjoyed reading your balanced review, Julie. Well done!

DCMetroreader said...

This sounds like a terrific summer read.

Patty said...

Oh I love books like this...I can't wait to read it...

Beth F said...

This is going to be on the fence for me -- could work, but I'm not sure. I'll look for it at the library and flip through before I commit.

Steve Capell said...

I have read other reviews of this book some say they like the book and others said it was slow reading. Thanks for your honest review.

diaryofaneccentric said...

I'm not sure this book is for me, but I adore the cover!