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Novel set in the Summer of 1950, CAPE COD

21st November 2022

The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey, novel set in the Summer of 1950, Cape Cod.


Novel set in the Summer of 1950, CAPE COD

The novel opens with young Michael, a German orphan travelling on a train to Cape Cod, in order to spend the Summer there with a family who have offered to take him in whilst his stepmother takes things easy. It is anticipated that he will have a playmate in young Richie.

Jo and Edward Hopper live nearby, an artist couple, who have a volatile relationship, tipping over at times into abusive interactions. Jo can be histrionic and manipulative, Edward counters her outbursts with withdrawal. He is struggling with his art and she is resentful that she feels she has to subjugate her creativity for the greater good. Michael finds himself taken with Jo in particular and through his eyes the adult world seems singularly curious.

The lens of observation sweeps around this community, as the adults grapple with the legacy of the recent war and the burgeoning conflict in Korea. The American Dream sometimes feels tangible, at others more ethereal and intangible. The people in the story grapple with loss, a sense of dislocation and, well, just life in a post war world. The story is set against a wonderfully depicted backdrop that conjures up colourfully both time and place. The novel is partly a coming of age story and partly a study of marital dysfunction.

The writing is full of languorous description and flows across the pages. It is quite a cool narrative which didn’t draw me in as much as I had hoped – the people moved through their stories but I struggled to get alongside them. Overall it is literary fiction that captures the mood of the day, perhaps more so than the characters.

The cover depicts Edward Hopper’s The Sea Watcher, 1952, and sets the scene for what is to come.

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