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The Last Days of Dogtownby Anita Diamant
Synopses & Reviews
A magnificent storyteller with vast imaginative range, Anita Diamant gave voice to the silent women of the Old Testament in The Red Tent. Now, in her third novel, she brings to vivid life an early New England world that history has forgotten.
Set on Cape Ann in the early 1800s, The Last Days of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and witches. Nearly a decade ago, Diamant found an account of an abandoned rural backwater near the Massachusetts coastline at the turn of the nineteenth century. That pamphlet inspired a stunning novel about a small group of eccentrics and misfits, struggling in a harsh, isolated landscape only fifty miles north of Boston, yet a world away.
Among the inhabitants of Dogtown are Black Ruth, an African woman who dresses as a man and works as a stone mason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her rural brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of a very strange aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave whose race denies him everything. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself and inspires those around her to become more generous and tolerant themselves.
This is a story of hardship and resilience — and an extraordinary re-creation of an untold chapter of early American life. With a keen ear for language and profound compassion for her characters, Diamant has written her most moving and powerful novel.
"Anita Diamant brings an obscure piece of American history to life with great clarity in The Last Days of Dogtown. The story is one of delicate hope and turns out to be a quiet tribute to love's power. Diamant captures with imagination and credibility the people of a unique place and time. In casting her own spell over the Dogtowners, Diamant offers her readers the opportunity to appreciate the humanity that transcends both." Miami Herald
"[A] superb historical novel. With its cast of thoroughly engaging characters, Diamant's gripping tale is so bittersweet and haunting as to make one weep." The Baltimore Sun
"Basing this novel loosely in fact, Diamant adeptly manages to evoke the minutiae of everyday living in an all but forgotten place and time in history." Booklist
"Diamant has a gift for storytelling and breathes life into this dying town and its eccentric inhabitants." Library Journal
"Both Judy and the haunted New England landscape evoke something of the world of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and his Hester Prynne, who also defies convention by following her own passion." Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Four Spirits
"A deeply satisfying novel, populated by people we care about, delineated in spare, elegant prose....Moving, absorbing and engaging." Kirkus Reviews
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