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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - even if the characters aren't "likeable"
I can't believe that this book received so many negative reviews - it's one of the finest novels I've read in several years. It reminded me of Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent in some ways - also an excellent book.
Just because a character isn't someone you'd want to be friends with doesn't mean it's a powerful, moving piece of work. I enjoyed it even more...
Published on Nov. 26 2001 by Adam Doerr

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Potentially Brilliant, but Falls Short
John Casey's modern novel of the sea is a good read with some interesting characters and situations (including what could have been an exciting tale about survival in the midst of a strong hurricane). The primary character of focus is Dick Pierce, a struggling fisherman, husband, father of two, and a man attempting to build his dream boat (and hence a means to a better...
Published on Dec 11 2001 by JD Cetola


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Potentially Brilliant, but Falls Short, Dec 11 2001
By 
JD Cetola (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
John Casey's modern novel of the sea is a good read with some interesting characters and situations (including what could have been an exciting tale about survival in the midst of a strong hurricane). The primary character of focus is Dick Pierce, a struggling fisherman, husband, father of two, and a man attempting to build his dream boat (and hence a means to a better future). "Spartina" is the story of Dick Pierce, his boat, and the moral dilemmas he finds himself facing while trying to make a better life for himself and his family.
Whether he succeeds or not is left for the reader to decide. Pierce wants his own boat to captain and has been working on a 54-footer in his back yard for several seasons. He's about $10,000 short of funds to finish his boat and must make some difficult decisions as to how to come up with these funds. His wife is running out of patience (you can't blame her) and Pierce is struggling just to make a living as a commercial fisherman along the coast of Rhode Island. As a result, he makes some dubious decisions including poaching crabs and running drugs. These decisions seem thrust upon Pierce as if he had little say in the matters. And that's one of the failings in this book--the moral dilemmas are glossed over with an aura of inevitability. You get the impression Dick Pierce is a good man in bad circumstances, and these circumstances continue to present themselves.
Along the way, Dick has an affair with a much younger woman, the scheming and patently unredeeming Elsie. This affair fills the center of the novel and reveals more about Elsie than Pierce or his relationship with his family. Naturally, Pierce continues to make misstep after misstep, but ultimately is able to finish his boat after borrowing the necessary cash. As luck would have it, a strong hurricane approaches the Rhode Island coast just as his boat (the Spartina of the novels title) is christened (and still not yet insured). In yet another curious decision, Pierce (again seemingly with little control over the decisions he makes) takes the boat out to sea in an effort to get out the hurricane's path. This scene could have been one of great action, interest, and soul searching (he is, afterall, torn between two women and potentially about to lose his boat/life's savings), but is rather short-lived. Casey really lost an opportunity to bring some excitement and meaning to this somewhat predictable story by shortchanging the storm at sea portion of the story. It's a minor quibble, but one that left this reader dissatisfied.
Pierce faces several unresolved problems back on shore and the book concludes fairly rapidly once the Spartina is cast to the sea leaving the reader a little unsure what to make of Pierce's choices or the results of those choices. Overall, a book with a lot of promise and missed opportunities. Worth reading, but don't expect to be enthralled or enlightened.
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1.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing, Nov. 10 2009
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
I am not a reader and this book exemplifies why. If this is award winning material, God help us. I had to force myself to read it through and a lot of that was skimming over sheer verbosity just to find out the conclusion of the storyline. What a waste of time. I was appauled at the pathetic lack of "presence" given to Dick's (main character) wife, May. Next time I feel inclined to read I'll stick to the classics, the dictionary or encyclopedia. Far more rewarding.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - even if the characters aren't "likeable", Nov. 26 2001
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
I can't believe that this book received so many negative reviews - it's one of the finest novels I've read in several years. It reminded me of Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent in some ways - also an excellent book.
Just because a character isn't someone you'd want to be friends with doesn't mean it's a powerful, moving piece of work. I enjoyed it even more when I slowed down near the end and took the time to appreciate the way the book moves in currents, like its subjects (emotions and the sea). If you're looking for fast-paced and superficial, look elsewhere, but if you like literary fiction that rewards thoughtful reading, this is a masterpiece.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly constructed, July 12 2001
By 
Cosimo Oxhead (Washington, D.C. United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
I have read the bad reviews of Spartina and I cannot understand how this book, which I found to be quite powerful, can engender such loathing. I have written few reviews, but I felt I had to come to the defense of Spartina. It is a beautiful work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars superb tale of RI natives and modern life, May 24 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
A wonderful book with great characters who deal with modern problems in a very traditional setting. A work of genius. What man would not love Elsie? READ IT!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic for me, March 30 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (Cranston, RI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
...I've read Spartina twice, and I'll probably read it again. This is a much more real sea-book than the perfect storm (which has some amazing jounalistic holes if you look into it). I pretty much love everyone in the book. I've fantasized about Elsie, and May too. I've wondered if I'm a player, or what I can do to become one. The cover of my copy says Casey's planning to write a cycle of books on this area and I've been looking for another one for years. I'm still hopeful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine book about mid-life masculine crises, Oct. 26 2000
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This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
I loved this book, with its deep insight and gorgeous prose that lies somewhere between that of Hemingway and Wolfe, yet stands on its own. It's the tale of a tough, sensitive man fighting to find his place in an increasingly alienating, bewildering world. I sympathize with him. Casey tells it in a highly engaging, understanding manner, in a way that plumbs the often inscrutable and sullen depths of middle-aged masculinity. I would highly recommend this great book; on the strength of this one book I'm seeking out another by Casey!
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Chick Novel disguised as adventurous, Oct. 11 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
Book award? Not from me...but it started out so well and with such promise. The characters are all unlikeable except for Pierce's sociopath friend Parker. Elsie is also very unlikeable and whatever attracted them is not obvious. Their relationship is ridiculous and I cannot follow their conversations about nothing, really. She just wanted a kid out of him. There are some awesome passages and it started out so excellently but then I could swear a woman took over writing it and made it into some silly romance novel. I got it because one of my favorite writers, Paul Theroux, gave it kudos...shame on you, Paul. Did you really think it was that good? If you want a good sea adventure stick with the obvious: Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea or even The Perfect Storm - THEY are good books. This is not. And I am a woman and I lived in New England- too bad someone didn't edit him or steer him back on track. But all in all, a book with no likeable characters is not going to win my praise.
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2.0 out of 5 stars It's Not All The NY Times' Fault:, Sept. 12 2000
By 
Steve Lichtman (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
Here is the full context of the infamous excerpt from The New York Times Book Review that blares from the cover of "Spartina", and has misled and rightfully infuriated many readers. Key words missing from excerpt on book cover: "going" and "fishing":
"It is this fearless romantic insistence on lyric, even mythic symbolism, coupled with the relentless salt-smack clarity of realistic detail, that makes ''Spartina'' just possibly the best American novel about going fishing since ''The Old Man and the Sea,'' maybe even ''Moby-Dick.''"
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1.0 out of 5 stars I wish I had read the reviews., April 18 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Spartina (Paperback)
Unfortunately, I did not read reviews of people (critics aside) who read this before I bought it. In spiteof the enormous potential for ideas of the plot, it does not work. I could not empathize with any character including the wife. The relationships are hardly realistic, and the best part-the storm-is not given enough emphasis to make up for the bland boring read. One of those books I wish I had never bothered to finish. Try perfect storm if you want a boat-fish-peole book.
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Spartina
Spartina by John Casey (Paperback - April 28 1998)
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