"Beguiling and richly rewarding....This story of passion and scandal at the end of the last centruy is a breathtaking, highly entertaining novel. Olympia may well be the most alluring female since Nabokov's Lolita...No praise is too high for Fortune's Rocks. The book will take hold of you and not let go until the last word."
Robert Allen Papinchak, USA Today
I like this book the best of all Anita Shreve's books. Some of her books are good, some aren't, some take a lot of patience to read. Fortune's Rocks is a story of a young girl at the turn of the century (1900) who falls in love with an older, married man. Not a good thing! You can guess what happens, but it's still a fascinating read.
Another wonderful book by Shreve. This story takes place at the same location as Sea Glass, but earlier, at the turn of the century. This book had an excellent, consistant pace, moving the story along nicely through all its 450 pages. Shreve mixes personal stories and the politics of the day (labor issues, immigration, class, religion) for a compelling story.
This book is not literature, but it's haunting none the less. How can you make a case for pedophilia? There is no way, but the author takes us into the minds of two people who are caught up in a passion that seems so right to them, nothing else matters. From the perspective of the reader, it's a moral morass. Reminds me of the situation in "L'Immoralist," though that, of course, IS literature.
I read Fortune's Rocks but will apply this caveat: My book club made me do it.
This was my first Anita Shreve novel, and I was not impressed. For starters, the premise is rather absurd and more than a little creepy: a highly educated 15-year-old girl falls in love with a highly respected 41-year-old doctor and married father of four. Shreve does a poor job of actually defining their relationship in any terms other than the physical. You are never really let in on either character's heart, never really shown any of the deeper insights into the spiritual or psychological nature of their feelings. There is very little for the reader to hold on to, to empathize with, or to understand.
There was also something in the character development that just seemed...forced. While Shreve attempted to breathe a sense of life, passion, and originality into all of her characters, it seems that none of her efforts really took. Everyone seemed to be missing that important "something" that would have transformed them from two dimensional ideas of characters into living, breathing beings that could transcend the page and become real.
This was a period piece, and Shreve's somewhat awkward efforts to recreate that era made the story feel more artificial than authentic. Complicated descriptions of fabrics and clothing made me feel like Shreve was simply trying too hard. The random attempts at period language (cues during childbirth to "strain as if at stool") and hokey cliches made most of the dialogue feel stilted and contrived.
I am all for reading a novel about romance (ie: Jane Eyre) but this book felt more like a grocery store romance novel with an identity crisis. I felt like it was trying to cover up its romance novel roots by throwing in forward-thinking social commentary about mill workers, culture wars, and custody laws in turn-of-the-century New England, in the hope that no one would notice. Despite the 26-year age difference of the main characters, the book had potential. Unfortunately, Shreve just wasn't able to deliver. It's not a book I'd be likely to recommend.
Olympia Biddeford is the only child of a prominent Boston couple. She is a precocious, well-educated young woman - alive with her own radical opinions and flush with the initial stirrings of maturity. On a beach in New Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth century - at a spot known as Fortune's Rocks - she spends her summers with her family at their vacation home. This particular summer will undoubtedly be a life-changing one for her; marked by the arrival of John Haskell - a doctor and a friend of her father's, whose new book about the plight of mill-town laborers has caused a sensation among those in well-to-do Society.
Olympia, herself, is thoroughly captivated by this man - by his intellect, his stature, and his drive to do right - even as she is overwhelmed for the first time by an irresistible sexual desire. She and the doctor - a married man, a father of four, and someone who is nearly three times her age - come together in an unthinkable, torturous, yet hopelessly passionate affair. So, Olympia casts aside any sense of propriety and self-preservation, plunging forward into a disastrous relationship that will ultimately have cataclysmic results. And the price of straying in such an unforgiving era is incredibly steep.
As Olympia is cast out of the only world she has ever known, she suffers the consequences of her choices. This is a profound and poignant story about unwise love and the choices which can transform a life. It is also the story of a remarkable young woman - her determination to reinvent herself and mend her broken life - and claim the one thing she finds she cannot live without.
I must say that I have always enjoyed reading anything by Anita Shreve - in my opinion, she is an absolutely wonderful author - and this book was no exception. Despite having read this book twice before, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, this was a story that poignantly showed just how someone's choices can affect so many more people than just that one person; everyone suffers from the consequences of someone's personal choices - just like the ripples on a pond. Anyway, I would definitely give this book an A+!