A Marsh Island by Sarah Orne Jewett

For this episode we are joined by the writer, Noreen Masud, author of the acclaimed memoir, A Flat Place (currently shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction). The book she has chosen to discuss is A Marsh Island, a 19th century American novel by Sarah Orne Jowett, who is usually considered one of the foremost proponents of American regionalism – an assumption this episode investigates. The book was first serialised in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1885 and published by Houghton Mifflin later that year. The story centres on Dick Dale, a wealthy young urban bohemian artist who finds himself billeted with a traditional farming family in the middle of New England’s Great Salt Marsh. His impact on the small community over the course of a harvest provides what plot there is – but the novel is rich in atmosphere and interior reflection, exploring the complex tensions between rural and urban ways of life in late 19th century East Coast America. It was written at a moment in Jewett’s own life when she had just begun an unconventional relationship with another woman and the episode also explores how that plays out in the subversive presentation of the relationships in the novel.


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