The End of the Point is in many ways a book about a place as much as people. In this exquisitely written novel, author Elizabeth Graver takes us deep into the lives of one extended family and the summer place where they feel most themselves, most at home.
The novel opens during the summer of 1942. The oldest Porter child, son Charlie, is off to war, and the army has taken over part of the point and built a base there, which disrupts the close-knit community of a few rich families who’ve owned property there for generations. This section is told from the point of view of Bea, a Scottish nanny who’s been engaged to look after the youngest Porter, Jane. There are two teenaged girls, Helen and Dossie, who mostly run wild in spite of a second Scottish nanny.Bea meets a soldier and falls in love, and the question is what she will or won’t do about it.
The next section is told by Helen and spans her college education in Switzerland and her life as a young mother, continuing to work on her education while raising her family. Helen’s oldest son Charlie, named after her brother who died in the war, is the focus of the next one, as he represents a country torn about by Vietnam, a generation adrift personified in his bad acid trip that leaves him facing crippling panic attacks and a very uncertain future.
At the end we return to Helen and Bea, yet the story moves seamlessly between different main characters and scenes. Through it all, the summer home at Ashuant Point in Massachusetts remains at the heart of the family, representing to them all that is best in the world. As changes inevitably come to Ashuant, as other families sell off land and newcomers move in with gardeners and sewage needs and golf course desires, as an oil spill defiles the pristine coast, the Porter family still feels a deep connection to a place that gives a sense of timelessness.
The End of the Point is the sort of novel that you read slowly, savoring the rich descriptive writing, and Graver has made it easy for us by adding it clues as to the characters’ futures, which I appreciated. I would find myself getting really tense–where IS Jane? Has the unthinkable happened to the child? What will Bea do?–and then Graver would includes some reference to Jane as an adult, and I would find myself relaxing and able to sink again into her beautiful, clear and precise prose. She makes a habit of this and I really liked it, as it helped me focus on what was going on at that moment in the character’s life. I also liked how, when one character is in the foreground (the entire book is told as 3rd person narratives), the reader gets glimpses of other sides of characters, as they are seen by others.
The End of the Point is a gorgeous book, one to be read, re-read and savored. I highly recommend it.
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