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The Country of the Pointed Firs
Sarah Orne Jewett


Serialized first in The Atlantic Monthly throughout 1896, this sequence of connected short stories was published in book form in November 1896 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company. It is a prime example of the American color novel, its local theme more prominent than its use of plot or character. It is the highpoint of Orne Jewett’s writing career, which was cut short by an accident when she was only 53. Henry James described it as her “beautiful little quantum of achievement.” Willa Cather, who edited Jewett’s works in the 1920s, held her to be a great influence on her own writing and wrote that this book, alongside Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and  Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, was one of “three American books which have the possibility of a long, long life.”

C format paperback (216mm x 135mm)
gatefold cover

cover design by Alex Walker
frontispiece painting by Daniel Balanescu



SARAH ORNE JEWETT (1849 – 1909) set her books in the fictional towns of Deephaven and Dunnet Landing; Dunnet Landing is based clearly on South Berwick, Jewett’s birthplace. Critics have suggestedthat she wrote sequences of related short stories, vignettes stitched together tentatively as novels; they rely little on plotting and concentrate on a sense of place – the small seaports and inland terrain of the southern sea-coast of Maine. She wrote sympathetic portraits of life in her locality, its hardship and its isolation, certainly not sentimental. So much of her writing is autobiographical and incorporates her childhood experiences. Jewett would accompany her father, a local doctor, on his rounds when he visited the local fishermen and farmers, and she was made to recuperate from illness by walking long hours in her locality. Her first short story was published when she was 19; her first book, Deephaven, was published in 1877. From 1881 she lived mostly with the writer Annie Adams Fields after the death of Fields’ husband in what at the time was referred to as a ‘Boston Marriage.’ From the late 1870s Jewett’s writing had been reviewed widely – favourably by Dean Howells, for instance – and her writing career had some momentum when it was cut short suddenly in 1902: she sustained serious injury whilst travelling in a carriage. She was to be a major influence on the writing of Willa Cather, who she met in 1908, and who was to edit Jewett’s work after her death.

The Country of the Pointed Firs was published in 1896, serialized early in the year in The Atlantic Monthly. It is considered to be Jewett’s finest book. Many describe it as a novella accompanied by short stories related in theme. Editions now tend to follow Willa Cather’s order of sequence used in the book’s 1923 edition. Cather thought it to be a masterpiece that would stand the test of time; Henry James thought it was a “beautiful little quantum of achievement.”


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Sarah Orne Jewett”

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