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The Silent Shore (Sisters of the Quantock…

The Silent Shore (Sisters of the Quantock Hills) (original 1986; edition 1986)

by Ruth Elwin Harris

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814148,805 (4.06)1
Title:The Silent Shore (Sisters of the Quantock Hills)
Authors:Ruth Elwin Harris
Info:Walker Books Ltd, London (2002), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Read, Your library, Favorites, Connect, ['00 - '03], ['08 - '12]
Tags:1900s (pre-WWI), WWI, historical, family, saga, sisters, orphans, read-2003, read-2012

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The Silent Shore by Ruth Elwin Harris (1986)



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I see this compared to Anne of Green Gables... I agree, and, that's a strike against it, for me.  I also see that others say the start is slow... I agree.  They say it picks up as Sarah grows older, during the War years... but I want to read of her childhood....  Well, anyway, I have decided to give up, on p. 105 of 288.  Just not my thing, sorry.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
The first of four novels devoted to the lives and adventures of the Purcell sisters - Sarah, Frances, Julia and Gwen - who grow to adulthood in the shadow of Somerset's Quantock Hills, The Silent Shore is told from the perspective of the youngest sister, Sarah. In fact, in the United States the book has been published as Sarah's Story, and that's just what it is, following Sarah from the time of her mother's death, in 1910, through her years being raised by her sisters (as well as the family maid, Annie), to the day she is ready, as a young woman, to go off to study at Oxford. In between is happiness and heartbreak, as Sarah studies under the tutelage of the Purcells' neighbor, and the village Rector, the Rev. Mackenzie; is wrapped up in the Purcells' complicated relations with the Mackenzie boys; endures the tragedy of World War I, and the loss it brings to her family circle; and comes to terms with the fact that, unlike her sisters, she is not an artist, and must follow another path.

Starting out in a quiet - one almost might say, slow - fashion, with the aftermath of Mrs. Purcell's death, The Silent Shore felt immediately authentic, and completely convincing, to me. Sarah's concerns, and her perspective, are genuinely those of a seven-year-old, which I appreciated. I also appreciated the fact that, as Sarah grows, her narrative seems to widen and deepen. Her love for Gabriel, the eldest Mackenzie boy - himself deeply in love with Frances - her friendships with Antony and Geoffrey Mackenzie, her gradual awakening to her own calling as a writer and a scholar: all were deeply satisfying themes within a larger story that was itself very satisfying. I did feel that, with the exception of Frances, the other two Purcells - Julia and Gwen - don't really come alive, but then, I guess I will have to read their books! In sum: a work I would recommend to anyone who enjoys quality historical fiction, or emotionally resonant family stories. Those with an interest in the relationships between sisters will find it particularly appealing, I think! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jul 18, 2013 |
The Silent Shore is the first book in a quartet about four sisters who live near the Quantock Hills in Somerset. The Purcells are orphaned by their mother's death in 1910. Seven year old Sarah is younger than her sisters - or any of their guardian's family, the Mackenzies. The older Purcells are artists and painters, more interested in art than traditional education, but Sarah is bookish and academic. She has lessons (including Latin and Greek) with Mr Mackenzie and his youngest son, climbs trees, and lies around reading books and eavesdropping on the others' conversations. Her mostly-idyllic childhood is changed by the outbreak of WWI.

The Silent Shore is poignant and picturesque. It has an artist's eye for detail - and I imagine many scenes as if they were one of France's paintings, with the light, seasons and weather all being important. It captures a landscape - Hillcrest and its garden, the villege, the Quantock Hills beyond, as well as an era - the 1910s and (some of) the ramifications of WWI.
But mostly, it is about the Purcells and the Mackenzies, and more particularly, Sarah's experiences of growing up and trying to make sense of the world.

The subsequent books in this quartet cover a similar time-frame to The Silent Shore, but from the perspective of one of Sarah's sisters. Since the Purcells all have quite different experiences of WWI and these books are about relationships, characters and characters' reactions to events, rather than those events themselves, reading all the books together is like putting the pieces of a jigsaw together.
So while The Silent Shore stands on its own, perhaps what I love most is how it is in dialogue with its sequels. Together they paint a much bigger picture. I can't think of anything else quite like them. ( )
  Herenya | Dec 21, 2012 |
(Book #21 in the 2004 book challenge)

This is the first of four books about orphan sisters (natch), and are set around WWI. Sarah's Story was our book discussion book for the VSC (the book discussion portion of Betsy-Tacy) this month.

This book was a perfect match for the BT ladies. Everyone enjoyed it very much, although I should point out that this is exactly our time period so our conversation kept flipping back and forth between the book and general chat about domestic life at home and abroad during this time.

Once again, I find myself mentioning that although this is a children's book, or at least a book marketed to children, I'm not certain most actual children would enjoy it too much. It's rather perfectly targeted at women who like to read flowery descriptions of life in the Quantock Hills with the added melancholy of sending the boys off to the Somme, which I concede is a somewhat limited demographic. The writing is very good, almost Virginia Woolf-ish -- and I might be going out on a limb here, but I don't think Virginia-esque passages about climbing over the Quantocks to Bridgwater Bay necessarily grabs the attention of the average kid reader (I was 24 before I could handle Bloomsbury).

This is also the raciest book we have ever discussed at VSC, much to our titillation. Granted, the other books we discuss are along the lines of Anne of Green Gables and Harriet the Spy. We had a blast reading aloud "scandalous" passages, most of which involved things like hand-holding and deep gazes. At one point, one of the Betsy-Tacys even exclaimed "I'm getting the vapors!" resulting in great hilarity, which should give an idea of the kind of entertainment that goes on at BT events. But we really do have a good time.

I will definitely be reading the other books this series, which rumor has it get EVEN RACIER. Mercy! I imagine you can't send someone off to the Somme with just a smile and a firm handshake.

Grade: A-
Recommended: If you like this sort of thing. Otherwise, you will be bored senseless.
1 vote delphica | Jul 20, 2007 |
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And when the stream

Which overflowed the soul was passed away,

A consciousness remained that it had left,

Deposited upon the silent shore

Of memory, images, and precious thoughts,

That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed.

-- from Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book 7
In memory of my parents
who loved the house
First words
They lurked in the shadows, all the evil spirits of every fairy story that she had ever read, ghouls, goblins, imps, crowding round the edges of the room, waiting for her to move into the darkness.
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"The Silent Shore" was republished as "Sarah's Story"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763617075, Paperback)

Four independent-minded sisters come of age in the early 1900s - and four interwoven novels tell their stories, each through a different sister’s eyes.

The year is 1910, and the four Purcell sisters have only each other. Their mother has died, leaving them orphans in a rambling country estate. But with the help of the Mackenzies - their guardian and his family, whom the sisters come to love in very different ways - Sarah, Frances, Julia, and Gwen find the courage to follow their own paths in a world that is rapidly changing.
Avid readers and fans of historical-fiction classics will love these spirited heroines - named "the Little Women of our times" by the TIMES of London - and will be thoroughly absorbed by their intertwining tales, full of feistiness, creativity, and young romance.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Raised by three older sisters, all artists, and educated by their guardian, a rector, lonely Sarah Purcell looks forward to 1920 when she will be old enough to attend Oxford and become a writer.

(summary from another edition)

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