BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: ‘Spoonhandle’ and ‘First Franco’
As promised earlier this year, Islandport Press has continued to republish the novels of acclaimed Maine writer Ruth Moore (1903-1989), with this second of her 14 books.
“Spoonhandle” was originally published in 1946, following “The Weir” of 1943. After 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it became the 20th Century feature film “Deep Waters” Fox in 1948, with Dana Andrews, Jean Peters and Cesar Romero (and nominated for an Oscar for special effects).
Moore continues his wonderfully entertaining literary legacy with âSpoonhandle,â which takes place in the Depression years of 1936 to 1937 as a coastal Maine community struggles to survive amid family discord, economic uncertainty and death. ‘a disturbing influx of wealthy summer vacationers eager to cheat the dwellers of their precious waterfront property – a class conflict fueled by lies, ploys and scams.
With his signature talents for color, atmosphere, dialogue, and neat, compelling characterizations, Moore creates a delightfully complex story that faithfully blends suspense, romance, and argument with warmth, kindness, and selfless humanity.
The Stilwell family have lived on Big Spoon Island for generations. Agnes, the eldest daughter, is an arrogant and egocentric snob. Pete, the older brother, a town elected official, owns the general store and is a cheater, liar, and con artist. Willie and Hod are the two younger brothers, both honest and kind-hearted fishermen who refuse to sell their tiny island to a wealthy arrogant tycoon for his future summer mansion.
Social and economic conflicts push islanders to take sides with greed and self-interest that go against tradition and what is right. Add in a tender romance between Hod and a pretty writer, a rebellious orphaned teenager, a shunned Portuguese family, the eccentric Ladies Aid Society, a terrible tragedy and Willie’s surprise decision, and Moore comes up with a wonderfully endearing story.
But beware: don’t do business with Pete.
PREMIER FRANCO: ALBERT BELIVEAU IN LAW, POLITICS AND LOVE
If you are considering breaking the law, it might be wise to consult a lawyer first: especially a lawyer like Albert BÃ©liveau. Later, you may have to appear before Judge BÃ©liveau.
“First Franco” is West Gardiner author Douglas Rooks’ excellent biography of Albert Beliveau (1887-1971), an outstanding Franco-American jurist who established a high level of civic participation for ambitious and hardworking immigrants to Maine. . Rooks is a journalist, former editor and publisher of the Maine Times.
Rooks explores the life and times of Judge BÃ©liveau within the historical framework of legal and judicial policy, the First World War, the crash of 1929 and the struggles of the Franco-Americans – “the largest minority group in history. du Maine â- with nativism and endemic discrimination over their language, religion, culture and heritage.
It vividly describes Beliveau’s childhood, his childhood in poverty in Lewiston, his desire to excel in school, his success in law school (registering the highest score on the bar exam) , greater success as a practicing lawyer, and later as a judge in the Maine Supreme Court (the first Franco to achieve this status) and as a champion of the American Legion and in support of disabled veterans . Rooks also judiciously incorporates the social, economic, and political issues of the day, and Beliveau’s belief that discrimination in any form should never bother anyone.
The stories of his career as a lawyer and judge are fascinating. As an Oxford County District Attorney, he once walked 10 miles through the woods of Maine with the Sheriff and a Pinkerton Detective to arrest a suspected murderer. As a judge, he often visited inmates in the state prison.
And her outlook on life is charming and exemplary, especially considering her many professional accomplishments. When asked to name the highlight of his life, he replied, “My marriage to Margaret.”
Bill Bushnell lives and writes at Harpswell.
OFF RADAR: “Premier Franco” and “At war with the government”