The Edge of the Earth: Book summary and reviews of The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz

The Edge of the Earth

By Christina Schwarz

The Edge of the Earth
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2013,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Polished, well-educated Trudy can argue Kant over dinner and play a respectable portion of Mozart's Serenade in G major. Her parents have laid out a lovely future for her, and everyone understands that it's only a matter of time before she marries the son of their closest friends. All should be well in her world, and yet Trudy is restless, and desperate for more stimulation than 1890s Milwaukee will allow. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she's found her escape from the banality of her pre-ordained life.

Alienated from Trudy's family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse Point Lucia, California - an unnervingly isolated outcropping, trapped between the ocean and hundreds of miles of inaccessible wilderness. They meet the light station's only inhabitants - the formidable and guarded Crawleys. In this unfamiliar place, Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially after she discovers what hides among the rocks.

Gorgeously detailed, swiftly paced, and anchored in the dramatic geography of the remote and eternally mesmerizing Big Sur, The Edge of the Earth is a magical story of secrets and self-transformation, ruses and rebirths. Christina Schwarz, celebrated for her rich evocation of place and vivid, unpredictable characters, has sup another haunting and unforgettable tale.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This novel is a wonderful story and a deep meditation on the meaning of work and knowledge. It's also a compelling imagining of its time and place, making it a good choice for lovers of historical fiction." - Booklist

"The disconcertingly abrupt tragedy that concludes this plot thread is disruptive, but fortunately, it doesn't detract too much from an otherwise compelling period story." - Publishers Weekly

"Strong characters and plotting - including a nifty final twist involving Jane - maintain the interest in a rather slowly paced narrative." - Kirkus

"A gripping story." - Kate Alcott, bestselling author of The Dressmaker

"Schwarz is a masterful storyteller." - Laura Moriarty, bestselling author of The Chaperone

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Judy M. (East Haven, CT)
The Edge of the Earth
I found this book to be an engaging story of life as it was planned to be verses life how it becomes to be.
The character of Trudy, born into a time where her expectations of life, through her families eyes, are to settle down with a nice/stable husband & raise a family. Trudy is well rounded, intelligent, and does not really question this path until Oskar comes along.
Oskar is of course intelligent, different, a dreamer of big things, and allows Trudy to believe there may be more to her existence than what had been doled out to her.
Since Oskar believes himself to be the inventor of new concepts that will make its mark in the world, and Trudy hs fallen in love with him and sees a new life for herself - the obvious happens, and they leave together to embark on what seems to be Oskars journey - Trudy still being in the more traditional role.
What I particularly liked about this book was both the fact that it takes place in a remote setting (this is my 2nd lighthouse book), and that you get the chance to watch Trudy grow independent of all her original beliefs, and eventually of her need to have a husband as her way to fulfillment.
An enjoyable read throughout, many twists to the story, and it all takes place in this most unlikely setting.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI)
a book indeed with an edge
Christina Schwarz's exquisite The Edge of the Earth relates the story of Trudy Swann, who travels to a remote California lighthouse in the very late 1800's. As Trudy assists her not-particularly-likable husband Oskar with the operation of the lighthouse, she also begins teaching the local (rather incorrigible) children.

The plot includes a grim mystery: the tangled tale has some elements of fantasy. The author's skillful storytelling keeps the reader enthralled. I read slowly, savoring.

A particular bonus of this book is its wondrous descriptions of sea animals and plants that Trudy finds as she explores the terrain of her new surroundings. (This puts me in mind of Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures, a book I also treasure.)

The Edge of the Earth is unique and gripping; I highly recommend it.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by WDH (New Port Richey, FL)
What Was She Thinking?
Throughout most of the book I kept asking myself what was Trudy thinking when she chose to marry Oskar? A 'love is blind' situation with a bit of parental/societal defiance thrown in and she is launched into a life she is not prepared for with an unreliable and almost untrustworthy partner. However, Trudy manages to take her circumstances and turn them into something almost grand as she becomes aware of the flora and fauna in her remote surroundings on the California coast. She starts a business, gains independence and finds a place in the world that connects her to who she was before meeting Oskar. Overall I enjoyed the book, but did feel it was a bit disjointed.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Angela J. (Highlands Ranch, CO)
The Edge of the Earth
I loved her previous novel "Drowning Ruth", I was expecting something along those lines. Unfortunately, it wasn't. At times, it was like reading a textbook on marine life. The book was plodding, and the characters weren't well developed.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Barbara L. (Mill Valley, CA)
The Edge of the Earth
"Like countless others before us, we believed that we alone understood the dictates of love." This quote from "The Edge of the Earth" describes beautifully young Trudy and Oskar Swann as they travel to their new married life at a remote lighthouse off the coast of California, eager to escape the restrictions of a complacent life in Milwaukee. i think the readers will relate to their early romantic illusions as to what life will be like when they are free to live without conventions, while knowingly understanding that young love is sometimes not all that is needed to survive and endure. The secrets revealed slowly over the pages keeps one enthralled and dying to know what is really going on on that lonely island.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Deborah M. (Chambersburug, PA)
Very Disappointing
I remembered liking Schwarz's Drowning Ruth when I read it years ago, so I was looking forward to The Edge of the Earth. Sadly, I was greatly disappointed. Perhaps it's that my reading tastes have changed . . . but I really just don't think this is a very good book. The characters are stereotypes and the plot is predictable; the writing itself is rather pedestrian. Frankly, I had to really push myself to plod through it.

The novel begins and ends in the present day. An elderly woman, who apparently lived in the now-famous St. Lucia lighthouse years ago, comes to visit with her grandson. As the tourists travel up the path, she prides herself on how much more she knows than their guide, and she launches into the central story. It's 1898, and young Trudy Swann travels with her new husband, Oskar, from Milwaukee to the California coast, where he has taken a job as assistant to the lighthouse keeper. Trudy is suitably naive and, of course, has a talent for science--particularly marine life identification and drawing--that no one has appreciated. As for Oskar, what is meant to be a rebellious nature comes off rather as petulant and spoiled. The family who lives at the lighthouse is, of course, made up of cranky oddballs, but, of course, their crankiness is only there to cover deep, dark family secrets--secrets that really aren't all that surprising. The Crawleys have a hoard of children who are a bit wild but sweet and eager to learn. But they know things that Trudy does not, and they have a collection of strange 'gifts' left to them by 'the mermaid.'

I won't go into this any further and spoil (if possible) the 'discoveries' for other readers. At this point, I became very irritated with the book--not just because what happens is so irritating (it is), but because it was so predictable and so obviously aimed at tugging at the reader's emotions and making a 'big statement'. (Can you feel the hammer?)

Another reviewer mentioned that those who enjoy Oprah selections would probably like this book. I'm not one to automatically pan anything Oprah recommends, as some do; in fact, I've enjoyed many of her selections, including Drowning Ruth. But not The Edge of the Earth.

I might have rated the book a little higher, but I was really irritated that so many better books were waiting while I struggled to finish it.

...51 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Christina Schwarz Author Biography

Photograph by Deone Jahnke

Christina Schwarz was raised in southern Wisconsin on farmland that has been in her family for generations. She has a B.A. and M.A. in English from Yale. Christina taught high school English while she was working on her first novel, Drowning Ruth, which was published in 2000 and was selected for Oprah's book club in September 2000. Her novels range from modern satire (All Is Vanity) to the chronicle of a contemporary marriage (So Long At the Fair) to gothic drama set in the past (Drowning Ruth). Her latest work, The Edge of the Earth is a return to a historical setting and a mysterious plot line.

In addition to Wisconsin, she has lived in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, England, New York City, Boston, and New Hampshire. She now lives in southern California, with her family of ...

... Full Biography

Other books by Christina Schwarz at BookBrowse
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  • All Is Vanity jacket
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