The Rathbones: Book summary and reviews of The Rathbones by Janice Clark

The Rathbones

By Janice Clark

The Rathbones
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

A gothic, literary adventure set in New England, Janice Clark's haunting debut chronicles one hundred years of a once prosperous and now crumbling whaling family, told by its last surviving member.

Mercy Rathbone, fifteen years old, is the diminutive scion of the Rathbone clan. Her father, the last in the beleaguered dynasty, has been lost at sea for seven years - ever since the last whale was seen off the coast of Naiwayonk, Connecticut. Mercy's memories of her father grow dimmer each day, and she spends most of her time in the attic hideaway of her reclusive uncle Mordecai, who teaches her the secrets of Greek history and nautical navigation through his collection of specimens and moldering books. But when a strange, violent visitor turns up one night, Mercy and Mordecai are forced to flee the crumbling mansion and set sail on a journey that will bring them deep into the haunted history of the Rathbone family, and the reasons for its undoing.

As Mercy and Mordecai sail from island to island off the Connecticut coast, encountering dangers and mysteries, friends and foes, they untangle the knots of the Rathbone story, discovering secrets long encased in memory.  They learn the history of the family's founder and patriarch, Moses Rathbone, and the legendary empire he built of ships staffed with the sons of his many, many wives. Sons who stumbled in their father's shadow, distracted by the arrival of the Stark sisters, a trio of "golden" girls, whose mesmerizing beauty may have sparked the Rathbone's decline.

From the depths of the sea to the lonely heights of the widow's walk; from the wisdom of the worn Rathbone wives to the mysterious origins of a sinking island, Mercy and Mordecai's journey will bring them to places they never thought possible.  But will they piece together a possible future from the mistakes of the past, or is the once great  family's fate doomed to match that of the whales themselves?

Inspired by The Odyssey by way of Edgar Allan Poe and Moby Dick, The Rathbones is an ambitious, mythic, and courageous tour de force that marks the debut of a dazzling new literary voice.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The Rathbones swims in meticulous, detailed descriptions to the point that I find myself jumping ahead in the hope of finding a thread of plot to hang on to, something that will make sense in the larger arc of the story - but, after 80 pages, I have yet to find one." - BookBrowse Reviewer

"Starred Review. [A] beautifully written, playful and intricate debut novel. Clark creates evocative descriptions...making her images and encounters between people especially vivid." - Publishers Weekly

"Chicago-based author Clark seduces with her vision and her prose but disappoints with non-epic storytelling." - Kirkus

"At once sprawling, ambitious, and tightly woven, this gothic tale is shrouded in longing and loss, with hints of the supernatural woven throughout. Readers of epic family sagas will find it both compelling and captivating." - Library Journal

"There are hints here of Homer's Odyssey and, in the whale-obsessed father, of Melville's Moby-Dick. But, in larger part, the story seems to be a dark combination of fairy tale and fever dream, replete with reality-bending, dark secrets, and a fascinating, multigenerational family." - Booklist

"Part odyssey, part ancestral mystery and part sea shanty, all brilliantly entwined and soaked in Greek myth. Mercy's journey over sea and shore and through extraordinary family history is a remarkable tale, both epic and intimate. The Rathbones itself feels as though it was loom-woven or carved in whalebone. Beautifully crafted and elegantly told. A siren song of a story." - Erin Morgenstern, bestselling author of The Night Circus

"Dark and beautifully written, Janice Clark's journey into family history captures the salty bonds of blood and sea, with all that lies beneath: from long held secrets to a broken covenant with the whale.  As cautionary a tale as Melville's, this is nevertheless a woman's odyssey, one that creates a kind of longing that lingers far beyond its final pages. I'm telling everyone I know to read this one." - Brunonia Barry, bestselling author of The Lace Reader

"Full of longing and desire, The Rathbones is a wonder. Janice Clark has written a new chapter of American myth and family legend, an epic tale of adventure - of men who go off to sea and the women who wait for them until they can wait no longer. Mercy Rathbone, the 15-year-old girl whose odyssey is at the story's core, is a brilliant creation, who will haunt your memory long after you turn the final page." - Keith Donohue, New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child

"The Rathbones is a gorgeous, gothic tale of a seafaring family and their dark secrets, passed through generations. Reminiscent of Melville, Janice Clark's writing is inventive and astonishing in its sensuousness and attention to historic details." - Kathleen Kent, bestselling author of The Heretic's Daughter

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More Information

Janice Clark is a writer and designer who lives in Chicago. She grew up in Mystic, Connecticut, land of whaling and pizza.

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