Time Out of Mind
by Rachel Field
1935 National Book Award "Most Distinguished Novel"
4 stars - delightful
ALR Green - very minor character of wee terrier type doggie named Frisky who is well loved
Oh dear, look at that racy dust cover. The edition sent to me by the library network was sans dust cover. Just as well, since the cover doesn't suit the contents.
The book is set in the late 19th century. After the death of her father, ten year old Kate Fernald and her mother head to the coast of Maine where mom has a job as housekeeper to the Fortune family. The Fortune fortune comes from shipbuilding and sailing. Major Fortune is a widower with two young children, a boy, Nat, and a girl, Rissa who are both around Kate's age.
Kate hangs with the Fortune children but she's also part of the working class community. Neither betwixt or between, the working class thinks she is putting on airs, the Fortune family allows her to play with the kids, but excludes her from family gatherings. No worries, she seems happy enough.
Poor Major Fortune, though, sheesh. He's fighting progress all the way, what with building wooden sailing ships when steam ships are taking over and grousing about the fad for building summer homes along the shore.
Then there is his son, Nat, who just wants to write music, but his old man says, "no way, you will be a sea captain" and, well, that kind of breaks the poor lad.
The writing is rich and luxurious. The characters well drawn. As for the plot....
The thing of it is, that the plot twists are, well, non-existent because one sees them coming from miles away. But the book is written in the form of a memoir, so I'm not too bothered by that. After all, isn't it human nature to craft our pasts in such a way as to form logical stories leading up to all the pivotal events in our lives?
Kate has a time of it, but she seems pretty adaptable and doesn't have regrets about her actions, which is kind of rare. Now then, that cover. Well, there is actual S-E-X in the book. Seriously. Not heaving bosoms and whatnot, but I'm pretty sure there was sex. That's rare for a novel written in 1935 when for the most part all you get are vague descriptions of men gallivanting about and babies somehow being conceived. So there's that.
But that isn't really the central part of the story. The story is about the beautiful Maine countryside, the inevitable march of progress, missteps with consequences, and, of course, the many faces of human love and how it can cause both pain and joy.
Good stuff happens to Kate, bad stuff happens to Kate. She is filled with joy, she is filled with sorrow. Basically, she's living her life, right?
I read this book coincidentally with my husband being hospitalized (don't worry, he's on the mend). It was the perfect escape during those long hours. A story that drew me in, where I cared about the main character but with nothing so horrible as to cause me distress. Four stars because I am going to try another one of Ms. Field's novels at some point.