Frankly, I’d rather live in Ellen Hilderbrand’s novel ‘Literary Axis’

Nantucket Island was once the whale oil capital of the world. In the first half of the 20th century, writers such as Nathaniel Benchley, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, John Steinbeck, and the Gilbreth family found inspiration in summer homes 30 miles from the sea. Today, the island’s main exports are middle and low income families who can no longer afford to live here. Our second largest export is signed copies of Ellen Hilderbrand’s beach novels: over 5,000 copies of Nantucket Hotel It was shipped to readers from Al Jazeera’s independent bookstore, Mitchell’s Book Corner, last June.

I read my first Elin Hilderbrand novel on a cold January day two years ago. she was 28 summerHilderbrand in the 1978 movie Same time next yearA city man and a woman who live in a simple beach shack in Nantucket begin a raging love affair that will last – you guessed it – 28 summers.

Up until that point, most of my reading of the island I had called home for eight years had been limited to the classics. My idea of ​​having a good time was to go to a Moby Dick A marathon at the Whaling Museum, staying up late at night listening to members of the community read aloud from Melville’s masterpiece under a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

If you’ve only watched Ellen Helderband’s novels staring at you from the airport kiosk are stories of women rediscovering themselves, usually over the course of a fateful summer in Nantucket, often in a house overlooking the sea. This is not my Nantucket. I live in one of the few affordable housing subdivisions on the island, in a house I won in a lottery held in the middle school cafeteria. My lawn is dead forever, despite the urging of parents in the neighborhood. I’ve spent time in any drooling seaside grandmother’s homes, but as a dog sitter or while working at property sales.

Perhaps the isolation caused by the epidemic was coupled with sunset at 4 pm. Whatever the case, I finally got off my literary high horse, and reviewed Hilderbrand’s novel after novel from the island library. Before the month was over, I was reading the perfect coupleand then summer year 69And the BarefootAnd the matchmakerAnd the here for usAnd the And the beautiful day. (I have since read all 21 of Hilderbrand’s summer novels.) The waves broke at the feet of attractive beach huts. I dreamed of oysters at Cru and dinner at Blue Bistro, real and imagined places. Stranded on a winter island, she at least manages to escape to an endless summer. I could visit a world I had seen at glimpses through the recesses in the hedges of sprawling summer pools.

Hilderbrand’s Nantucket is a fully aware scientist. The stories are fictional, but the names (streets, businesses, and other landmarks) remain exactly the same on the island map. There are other accounts set on islands that may be Nantucket as well, such as Peter Benchley’s shark-infested Amity Island. jaws Island Packet of Herman Rauscher Summer 42And the and Maggie Shipstead’s WASP-y Waskeke Island Seating arrangements. All these writers spent time in Nantucket, but Hilderbrand, who lives year-round on the island, does not practice such a trick.

Today, the island’s main exports are middle and low income families who can no longer afford to live here.

Hyperrealism allows readers to experience – or try to experience – the Nantucket novel. Each January, Nantucket holds “Elin Hilderbrand’s Bucket List Weekend,” where readers can take a guided tour of Nantucket as it appears in Hilderbrand’s books. There are trivia contests, dance parties, and even a reading from Elaine’s upcoming book. Rooms at the hotel cost about $400 a night during this special weekend. Had these readers arrived in August, the price per night for the smallest room is more than $1,000.

Next year marks Bucket List’s seventh weekend. (Eileen has been nominated for the 2022 Nantucket Chamber of Commerce Tourism Advocate Award for her role in increasing visits to the island.) This event, and any event Helderband hosts in Nantucket, attracts people from all over the country to these sands. Spit, even in January. why? The bumper sticker sold at Mitchell’s Book Corner succinctly puts it: I would rather live in an Ellen Hilderbrand novel.

There is a long tradition of writers, mostly men, following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau. In my life in Nantucket, what would I look like wearing Hilderbrand sandals? It would be difficult to get a reservation at any of the restaurants that appear in these novels – few have sold or closed, sales are driven by a persistent real estate market and a serious shortage of labor. (I once earned $35 waiting in line during torrential rain at a sushi restaurant mentioned in Ellen Books to make a reservation for a man who used to hire locals to stand in line. I sat on a granite ledge and shared shelter from a rainbow beach umbrella with a woman from Greenwich. “You never read about it this is In any of Eileen’s novels,” she muttered.)

The fictional Hilderbrand weekend in Nantucket meant giving up my household chores for a long day at the beach. There’s no trip to the landfill, the island’s largest community center – most of the characters in Hilderbrand’s novels don’t move their trash. (Frank Conroy, veteran director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where Hilderbrand taught, met his wife while she was commuting to the Nantucket landfill. He wrote about the island in time and tides, Small size is part diary, part travel guide.)

In my life in Nantucket, what would I look like wearing Hilderbrand sandals?

If you’ve never read a Hilderbrand novel, you might be surprised to learn that many of the characters aren’t on vacation. The Blue Bistro, arguably Hilderbrand’s best, follows Adrienne, a young woman who arrives on the island in search of a job. She wakes up at Star of the Sea Youth Hostel after paying seven dollars to crash there, and is hired as assistant manager at the (fictional) Blue Bistro, despite having no restaurant experience.

“You’ll make more money than you know what to do,” says her co-worker, when Adrienne walks back the price of a dress at Gypsy, one of the island’s expensive boutiques.

The Blue Bistro It came out over 15 years ago. A lot of that fantasy still seems true – any young man can come to Nantucket, work in the restaurant industry, and earn an insane amount of money in one prime season. This summer, the island’s storefronts are filled with wanted help signs. But if Adrian had arrived in Nantucket today, there would be no youth hostel to rest her head. Hostelling International has sold Sea Star, the island’s last inn, to Blue Flag Partners in 2020 for $3.4 million. Laws prohibit sleeping on the beach, and there are no campgrounds in Nantucket. (Gypsy continues to operate an active business.)

in Nantucket HotelIn Hilderbrand’s latest novel, a night watchman is discovered living in his car. Meanwhile, the rickety front desk clerk allows herself to be wooed by a wealthy (and married) man with a gorgeous waterfront home on Hulbert Street, a street that practically bears the property tax burden in Nantucket. You live there until you find housing with a co-worker.

There are a lot of characters who are financially secure and live in gorgeous empty summer houses for ten months out of the year. Visitors often ask me what it feels like to live here, if Hilderband’s novels indicate truly Nantucket. There is no single Nantucket. This is a place that is constantly changing, as shipwrecks are revealed at low tide and no secret remains buried for long.

This is a place that is constantly changing, as shipwrecks are revealed at low tide and no secret remains buried for long.

Hilderbrand’s Nantucket is mostly – but not entirely – white. The reality of the island is different, with students speaking 11 languages ​​in Nantucket Public Schools. The history of black Nantucket is an integral part of the island’s story—Skip Finlay whaling captains color is a great primer on the subject, like Francis Kartunen Other islanders. For summer visitors, perhaps the island’s diversity is only experienced when they are introduced by a black-and-brown host who keeps the island functioning summer after summer. National Book Award winner Tia Miles touched on this phenomenon in Atlantic Ocean In her article with a suitable title.Nantucket does not belong to Preby’s. As a single black character in Hilderbrand summer people As he put it, looking at the streets, restaurants, and beaches on Nantucket means watching “[w]Here’s people everywhere excited about summer.”

Given the breadth of other books set in Nantucket, what makes Hilderbrand’s novels a master historian of summer life on the island? I used to think these were just stories about rich people behaving badly. Thrillers abound, but Elaine has also pulled the curtain on Nantucket, offering her readers a glossary of faraway island terms. When they arrive, they speak the language. They know where the yacht club is and when they can catch a wooden sailboat race at the Opera Cup.

With the wealth gap widening in this country, what is the surviving power of books where lifestyles are inaccessible, even for those of us who live on said island? History tells us that escape is not going anywhere. Look no further than what was common during the Great Depression: great musical performances dominated the screen, such as top hatAnd the gold digger from ’33, And the shall we dance. People were desperate to be transported to a shimmering world, instead of the one they were struggling through.

During the period of reading Pandemic Beaches, one thought I had time and again been to Galley Beach, a Nantucket landmark who started life as an oyster shack and appeared in Hilderbrand’s work as the aforementioned Blue Bistro. Only open in season, this elegant building is tucked into a tangled silver bungalow often swallowed up by drifts of sand in winter. The restaurant faces Nantucket Sound, inside the Cliffside Beach Club. It’s the only quarter-mile stretch of private beach on the island. The remaining 80 miles of shoreline are publicly available, though without affordable lodging, the unspoken question is: Who is all this for?? A six-foot fence separates Cliffside from a narrow strip of public beach. I couldn’t get a reservation at the Blue Bistro (I mean Galley) or even walk through pristine Cliffside Beach, but I could swim in front of it.

This summer was the hottest any of us can remember. The roar of air conditioners replaced the roar of the waves. The only place where the heat subsides, even a little, is the sea. I get out of the car wearing only my swimsuit, which is the kind of thing you can throw away in a summer town. On the other side of the fence there are people using the summer as a verb. They walked around in Top Sides and blue jackets, in soft dresses, and blonde waves drooping across their shoulders. They raise their cameras west. They’ve waited for this moment, two weeks in heaven, toes in the sand, canvas shoes tucked under tables.

The water is warm, and the moon jelly is hitting my fingertips. Without my glasses, I can only suggest those people on the other side, muslin dresses blowing in the wind, bodies leaning toward the setting sun. A man raises a champagne flute, the orange sky is reflected in bubbles. Another applauds, as if this performance was staged just for them. And I, floating invisible in the bluish black sea.

In winter, when they are gone, I will walk along this beach as if I own the place. My footprints will remain there until the next great storm.

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