Martha's Vineyard: Background information when reading We Were Liars

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We Were Liars

by E Lockhart

We Were Liars by E Lockhart
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  • Published:
    May 2014, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Beyond the Book:
Martha's Vineyard

Print Review

E. Lockhart's We Were Liars takes place on fictional Beechwood Island. It is just east of Martha's Vineyard, and is reminiscent of it.

Martha's Vineyard Martha's Vineyard is located just seven miles off of the coast of Cape Cod. It is triangular shaped, and is about nine miles wide and 26 miles long at its farthest points - with over 120 miles of shoreline. One third of Martha's Vineyard is protected land, so quite a large chunk of it is undeveloped. The year-round population is a mere 15,000 which grows to over 100,000 in the summer months.

The Aquinnah Cliffs, in the town of Aquinnah on a southwestern peninsula of the island, frame valleys that were made by streams running off of glaciers during the Ice Age. Native American camps are estimated to have been settled on the island as 2270 BC. The Wampanoag Native Americans named it Noepe, "land amid the waters."

In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold gave the island its name, after his daughter, Martha, and for the native wild grapes he found. The first white settlement was established in 1642 in what is now Edgartown, and a pastor named Thomas Mayhew Jr. lead the group. He was unusually equality-minded, and one of his first rulings was that no land was allowed to be taken from the Wampanoag without consent and fair payment.

Martha's Vineyard During the colonial period, the Wampanoag taught the settlers how to hunt whale, and the island prospered. Farms also did well during this time, producing surplus butter and cheese, which was exported. Martha's Vineyard took a hit during the Revolutionary War, when a British fleet sailed into the Vineyard Haven Harbor and burned ships and took sheep and cattle

In contemporary times, singers James Taylor and Carly Simon have made their homes on Martha's Vineyard - as well as writers Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, William Styron, and Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. Many other musicians, artists and writers have lived there too. In 1974, Steven Spielberg filmed the movie Jaws on the island. He chose three native islanders to play major roles in the movie. Spielberg subsequently filmed Jaws 2 and Jaws: Revenge there as well.

With its many beautiful beaches, today, Martha's Vineyard is primarily a tourist draw. Among its famous attractions is Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, the oldest carousel in the United States; and the Black Dog Restaurant and Tavern founded in 1971 and known for its iconic "black dog" T-shirts.

President Obama vacations on the island in the summer - as did his Democratic predecessor, President Bill Clinton, while he was in the White House.

Picture of Gay Head Cliffs on Vineyard from Wikipedia
Map from Martha Vineyard's Chamber of Commerce

Article by Tamara Smith

This article was originally published in May 2014, and has been updated for the May 2014 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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