THE RAVEN by Peter Landesman


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Landesman aspires to literature in his first novel, a moody sea story whose ambitious reach ultimately exceeds its considerable grasp. During early summer 1941, the pleasure craft Raven puts out to sea from Bailey Island offshore Maine and disappears carrying 36 day-trippers from the mill town of Rehoboth. Lobsterman Clayt Johnson and his nine-year-old son, Ezra, recover the drowned bodies of the women who were aboard and the dead captain (found nearly naked and tied to a tuna keg), but the other men have vanished. Even so, there's no lack of scuttlebutt as to what happened; theories range from an unprovoked attack by one of the German U-boats prowling Maine's coastal waters through pilot error and insurance fraud. The generation-spanning narrative unfolds by fits and starts through the eyes of some of those affected by the tragedy. Mavis Beauchamp, who lost a father and two brothers, flees Rehoboth at the first opportunity. Walter McAlister, whose father kept him from the outing, returns home to stay after WW II and keeps the memory of his childhood playmates ever green. Also keeping the story alive is Leslie Everett Dove, the self-aggrandizing author of irresponsible but popular books on New England's maritime past. And there is Ezra, who quits Bowdoin a few weeks short of graduation to join his father on the water he abhors. Ezra unearths what seem to be the facts of the mysterious wreck more than 40 years earlier, but he refuses to help the sensation-seeking author. In the concluding chapters, Landesman discloses the ironic--if anticlimactic--truth of how Raven wound up on the bottom. Despite a letdown at the close, an impressive debut. Landesman has a genuine feel for the hard people and places of a region made bleak by man as well as nature, and he makes the most of a twisty plot that will keep readers guessing to the end.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1995
Page count: 360pp
Publisher: Baskerville