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Stern Men

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The "wonderful first novel about life, love, and lobster fishing" (USA Today) from the #1 bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic and City of Girls In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert's Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert's wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and The "wonderful first novel about life, love, and lobster fishing" (USA Today) from the #1 bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic and City of Girls In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert's Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert's wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and remain hungry for more. Off the coast of Maine, Ruth Thomas is born into a feud fought for generations by two groups of local lobstermen over fishing rights for the waters that lie between their respective islands. At eighteen, she has returned from boarding school-smart as a whip, feisty, and irredeemably unromantic—determined to throw over her education and join the "stern men"working the lobster boats. Gilbert utterly captures the American spirit through an unforgettable heroine who is destined for greatness—and love—despite herself.


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The "wonderful first novel about life, love, and lobster fishing" (USA Today) from the #1 bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic and City of Girls In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert's Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert's wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and The "wonderful first novel about life, love, and lobster fishing" (USA Today) from the #1 bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic and City of Girls In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert's Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert's wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and remain hungry for more. Off the coast of Maine, Ruth Thomas is born into a feud fought for generations by two groups of local lobstermen over fishing rights for the waters that lie between their respective islands. At eighteen, she has returned from boarding school-smart as a whip, feisty, and irredeemably unromantic—determined to throw over her education and join the "stern men"working the lobster boats. Gilbert utterly captures the American spirit through an unforgettable heroine who is destined for greatness—and love—despite herself.

30 review for Stern Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I respect Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer--a lot. Her dialogue jumps off the page, her descriptions are taut and humorous. But I do feel that this book reveals an author in her early period trying to find her groove. There are some plot points that fall short, and the character arcs only develop fully in the epilogue. About a third of the plot of the book seemed to fall into the last chapter. That being said, I'm becoming more and more interested in reading various writers' early work, mostly I respect Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer--a lot. Her dialogue jumps off the page, her descriptions are taut and humorous. But I do feel that this book reveals an author in her early period trying to find her groove. There are some plot points that fall short, and the character arcs only develop fully in the epilogue. About a third of the plot of the book seemed to fall into the last chapter. That being said, I'm becoming more and more interested in reading various writers' early work, mostly because the flaws show how far they have come and how every writer struggles at the beginning of their career. I'm not sure if I would recommend this book to someone who is simply a fan of Eat Pray Love. However, if you are studying writing as a craft, Gilbert shows off some textbook skills along with some mistakes. It's a great way to see all the ingredients laid out, but not quite gelling. I'd like to read the Last American Male next.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jodi Maples, MSW, LSW

    Perhaps it was my love of her other book, Eat, Pray, Love, that made me not completely love this book. If 1/2 stars were an option, I would have gone with 3 1/2 stars, so I'm rounding up. It was an interesting read...characters were well written, but there was no one I was emotionally invested in (although I loved Kitty, the drunken "aunt"). It seems that perhaps there is more commonality between classes than between geographic groups...this was about a small, lower-middle class community on the Perhaps it was my love of her other book, Eat, Pray, Love, that made me not completely love this book. If 1/2 stars were an option, I would have gone with 3 1/2 stars, so I'm rounding up. It was an interesting read...characters were well written, but there was no one I was emotionally invested in (although I loved Kitty, the drunken "aunt"). It seems that perhaps there is more commonality between classes than between geographic groups...this was about a small, lower-middle class community on the east coast who were dependent on lobsters to get by, but it could have easily been the small, middle class community in Iowa that I grew up in that was dependent on the weather & crops to get by. It was the small-town anecdotes that I found most entertaining. It almost seemed as if this book was written in stages & left that way...several chapters overlapped on information & character description. The fact that Ruth was given so many opportunities that she didn't take advantage of (out of spite? misguided loyalty to her father?) threw me a little bit. While I saw the (predictable) ending coming before they went to the wedding on Courne Haven, I was a little annoyed that she didn't want to see more of the world before settling down. I'm sitting here typing myself into a lower rating for this book...I'll stop now.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    Extremely boring and poorly written.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Generally, when describing books I try to use more specific language, but in this case my opinion of Stern Men after reading it can be summed up in one word- Weird. I slogged through it, but the book never really completely grabbed me. It had some of the trappings of the things I look for in a good novel; artful writing, an intriguing cast of characters, enigmatic plot twists, but I never really came to a basic understanding of the character of Ruth Thomas. One moment she is full of sass and wry Generally, when describing books I try to use more specific language, but in this case my opinion of Stern Men after reading it can be summed up in one word- Weird. I slogged through it, but the book never really completely grabbed me. It had some of the trappings of the things I look for in a good novel; artful writing, an intriguing cast of characters, enigmatic plot twists, but I never really came to a basic understanding of the character of Ruth Thomas. One moment she is full of sass and wry banter, and the next she is making completely reckless decisions, alienating the people she cares about, and behaving like a self-absorbed, sullen teenager. I suppose Gilbert wrote this a long time ago, but I expected more from her. I did enjoy the attention to detail and the lengths the lobstering community goes through to stay afloat, but Stern Men ultimately left me wanting for something it just didn't have.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Suanne Laqueur

    Her best? No. But I love it for sentimental reasons—it was her first fiction I read. The audio narrator was pretty good, except for the accent she put on for Cal Cooley, which drove me nuts. Listening made clear the parts I would've skimmed if I were reading. But again, it's dear to me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    My wife, the daughter of a lobsterman in Maine, bought this book after seeing Elizabeth Gilbert speak. After she'd read it I picked it up casually, not really expecting to read it. I was surprised by how quickly it grabbed me and how much I loved the book. I suppose living in coastal Maine with my 20+ years of exposure to a family tied to island living and lobstering allowed me to picture each and every character perfectly. A great ending, too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beverly Fox

    *Disclaimer: As always, this review contains spoilers so if you want to read this novel with bated breath don't read this review. (Not that this is that kind-of book anyway, but just in case.) Anyone who follows my reviews here knows that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert which is why it pains me to say that I really, genuinely did not like this book. I might go so far as to say that I hated it. It isn't because her writing was sub-par in any way. Gilbert shows the same astounding gift for *Disclaimer: As always, this review contains spoilers so if you want to read this novel with bated breath don't read this review. (Not that this is that kind-of book anyway, but just in case.) Anyone who follows my reviews here knows that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert which is why it pains me to say that I really, genuinely did not like this book. I might go so far as to say that I hated it. It isn't because her writing was sub-par in any way. Gilbert shows the same astounding gift for dialogue and capturing the essence of real-life people that I first encountered in Pilgrims (her collection of short stories which I read prior to this) and I would still recommend her to anyone who was looking for a good example of writing strikingly real characters or dialogue. She still does an amazing job of capturing the complexities of human relationships. And she still shows the same flair for creating atmosphere with setting and she devotes more time to that in this book than pretty much anything else. In fact, a much more accurate description of this book would be to call it a story of two islands and their people rather than a love story or even a coming-of-age story which is how most reviews describe it. Where the book fails, however, is in the story itself. Mainly, it's too damned short. When I was still in the midst of reading this a friend asked me how long it was. I told him it was a little under three hundred pages. He commented on it being a rather short book and I realized that I hadn't really thought about it before then. At the time, it didn't worry me. That was until I finished a chapter ending in a huge development and then beheld the word "Epilogue" on the next page. It hit me like a smack in the face. And then as I read through that last chapter I was horrified to find that she had skipped over six years following the dramatic development in the previous pages and jumped straight to the (albeit heartwarming) conclusion of the story. So far as the story arc goes she pretty much completely skipped over the climax and jumped right into the resolution. I was shocked when I realized this. And, to put it mildly, I was pissed. "What the hell? Did she not know how to write out that confrontation? Did she write it but then scrap it for some reason? Why the hell would she do that?" I don't know the answers to any of these questions nor to the countless others that come up as she describes where all the characters are at six years later- because she didn't write them. I'm not saying that you can't skip time in a story. Heck, there's nine years between the second and third chapters and that didn't phase me at all. What I am saying is that when the main character is revealed to have a huge life change in the works and her father has just learned this shocking revelation you don't skip over what happens next. What's more, the resolution, at least so far as the love story, doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense. I mean, the main character meets this guy, they have a total of two relatively awkward conversations before walking off into the woods and screwing like bunnies (in one of the most graphic and out-of place sex scenes ever written, by the way). The adults in charge are pretty pissed and one is expressly forbade to see the other so that by the time of that big revelation they haven't seen each other or spoken for about five months. Then, in the epilogue six years later, they apparently have one of the happiest marriages on the planet even though the only thing they seem to do together is screw like bunnies. I'm sorry, but great sex does not a miraculous relationship make. And calling this book a love story because of that is just straight-up ridiculous. And if you're in it for the other reasons- those complex relationships between the occupants of these two islands, their long history of distrust and warring over lobster fishing territory, their complex and somewhat fascinating way of self-governing and their chosen lifestyle which is so vastly different from the mainland- you'll still be disappointed. Gilbert has the main character do something for the community which every single flippin' character in the book repeatedly says would never, ever happen and provides virtually no explanation as to how she does it. Is she just magic? What on earth did she say? How could she possibly get them all to agree to that? Explaining it all away by saying that because she was an accepted insider is not a satisfying end. Like I said, I was pissed. Still am, in fact (I'm sure you can tell). I have absolutely no idea what purpose that giant skip forward served other than to ruin what seemed like it could have been a really good story. And while this is no way detracts from my love of her other works it will make me wait a while before I pick up her new novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Baljit

    Gilbert deserves far more credit for this novel than for her much publicised 'Eat, Pray, Love' and wishy-washy 'Commited'. In 'Stern Men' she takes us into the very heart and soul of this isolated island community of lobstermen. The subject, Ruth Thomas, is a fiesty young lady who is determined to stay on the island and join the gruff seamen in pursuit of lobsters. Here Gilbert delves into the dubiuos ancestery of Ruth, the longstanding fued between the people of the neighbouring island and the Gilbert deserves far more credit for this novel than for her much publicised 'Eat, Pray, Love' and wishy-washy 'Commited'. In 'Stern Men' she takes us into the very heart and soul of this isolated island community of lobstermen. The subject, Ruth Thomas, is a fiesty young lady who is determined to stay on the island and join the gruff seamen in pursuit of lobsters. Here Gilbert delves into the dubiuos ancestery of Ruth, the longstanding fued between the people of the neighbouring island and the many characters of island inhabitants. It is definitely a well-researched novel, and a smoothly woven tale about a little known community. cant say i have read many novels set within a lobster-fishing community and i began this novel with a sense of trepidation less the content appeared too dry, but i think Gilbert skilfully broached the subject, without boring any reader with too much technical detail.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    having just read gilbert's newest novel, 'the signature of all things', i wanted to go back and re-read this book, her novel that came out in 2000. it's fine. there are some similarities to the newer novel: strong female lead; a family with money, working in/with, & understanding nature. but this earlier works is not quite fully realized, and kinda bumpy along the way. but, the setting is so interesting and gilbert has a few characters i really enjoyed. * edited for typo. original review having just read gilbert's newest novel, 'the signature of all things', i wanted to go back and re-read this book, her novel that came out in 2000. it's fine. there are some similarities to the newer novel: strong female lead; a family with money, working in/with, & understanding nature. but this earlier works is not quite fully realized, and kinda bumpy along the way. but, the setting is so interesting and gilbert has a few characters i really enjoyed. * edited for typo. original review written 02 dec 2013

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This is Elizabeth Gilbert's first fiction effort. This is not Eat, Pray, Love. Not at all. If you want Eat, Pray, Love ... read that book and not this one. The men here are not sexy. Our female protagonist doesn't travel far and wide. There is no pasta. Don't read Stern Men and complain that you're not getting Eat, Pray, Love. If you need that EPL tie-in to make it through the day, this was probably one of the books that caused Gilbert to constantly owe money to her ex-husband for the rest of This is Elizabeth Gilbert's first fiction effort. This is not Eat, Pray, Love. Not at all. If you want Eat, Pray, Love ... read that book and not this one. The men here are not sexy. Our female protagonist doesn't travel far and wide. There is no pasta. Don't read Stern Men and complain that you're not getting Eat, Pray, Love. If you need that EPL tie-in to make it through the day, this was probably one of the books that caused Gilbert to constantly owe money to her ex-husband for the rest of her life. Ruth Thomas, our heroine, is born and grows up in Maine on Fort Niles island. Fort Niles is a scrappy and tiny place for lobster fishermen and the women they love and/or abuse. If you can't or don't want to be a lobsterman, it's best you leave Fort Niles. But even though Ruth has a special connection that would allow her to leave and "do better," and she can never be a lobsterman, all she wants to do is stay. This book is about Ruth and how she finds her way. For most of the book, Ruth is 18 years old and acts it: smart and savvy yet raw and impulsive. The two subplots include the story of Ruth's grandmother and her mother, and the bitter (and hilarious) lobster wars between Fort Niles and Courne Haven. I thought the characters were well-written and the research was impeccable. Gilbert must have spent months researching how lobstermen and the lobster business operate. YOU MUST READ THE EPILOGUE. Sometimes I'm guilty of just skimming the epilogue because I've assumed all of the plot action happened already. Read the epilogue or else you'll just be depressed. I do wish the action in the epilogue was expanded on and made into actual numbered chapters. But I really liked this book, and can't wait to get into The Signature of All Things next.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I adore this book. It takes a little getting into - the history of lobster fishing off the shores of Maine that begins the novel is necessary to the plot, but a little dry (or perhaps it's that, as yet, we have no idea which characters to hang our hats on). But quickly it becomes one of those books that you cannot put down. The characters are utterly unique - and I think that's one of the things I enjoyed most about the book; that each character was fully formed, with backstory, a pattern of I adore this book. It takes a little getting into - the history of lobster fishing off the shores of Maine that begins the novel is necessary to the plot, but a little dry (or perhaps it's that, as yet, we have no idea which characters to hang our hats on). But quickly it becomes one of those books that you cannot put down. The characters are utterly unique - and I think that's one of the things I enjoyed most about the book; that each character was fully formed, with backstory, a pattern of speaking, a method of walking, interacting, living that was so utterly them and no other literary character I've read before. It's clever, extremely funny in places (god, the conversation in the bar about having a prize fight with a chimp . . . GOD) and just a thoroughly satisfying read. Wonderful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lejla

    I had a lot of expectation from this book. But I didn't like it very much.Actually, Ruth anoyed me in some situations and that is unlike me. Although, I really liked the epilog, that was the best part of the book. So sorry but only 3 stars from me

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    It turns out Annie Proulx went too far in "The Shipping News." You don't have to go all the way to Newfoundland to find irresistibly quirky people living off the cold sea. Elizabeth Gilbert found them in Maine. In "Stern Men," her first novel, Gilbert describes the contentious battles between lobstermen living on Fort Niles and Courne Haven, two almost identical islands 20 miles off the coast. These are places inhabited by quiet men who carry a big claw. As Gilbert wittily suggests at the start of It turns out Annie Proulx went too far in "The Shipping News." You don't have to go all the way to Newfoundland to find irresistibly quirky people living off the cold sea. Elizabeth Gilbert found them in Maine. In "Stern Men," her first novel, Gilbert describes the contentious battles between lobstermen living on Fort Niles and Courne Haven, two almost identical islands 20 miles off the coast. These are places inhabited by quiet men who carry a big claw. As Gilbert wittily suggests at the start of each chapter, their lives reflect the prickly, hard-bodied lives of their catch. Their work is isolating and fiercely competitive. There are no fences in the ocean, no legal way to mark one's lobster "fields" except by tradition and intimidation. "Every lobster one man catches," Gilbert notes, "is a lobster another man has lost. It is a mean business, and it makes for mean men. As humans, after all, we become what we seek." Despite the wry comedy of this novel, it doesn't try to hide the scars of human cruelty. For generations, the two islands have fallen into periodic "lobster wars" that decimate their business, destroying boats, traps, and lives. But beneath a fierce-looking exoskeleton, these hard-drinking, foul-mouthed characters are surprisingly sweet. You just have to know how to handle them. Gilbert does. And eventually, so does her heroine, Ruth Thomas. She's a smart, aimless young woman who's returned to Fort Niles after an expensive private-school education that makes her a misfit in this little world of misfits. Ruth isn't sure what to do on an island that employs only men. Women here typically become mothers or alcoholics (or both), but neither of those career moves interests her. She'd like to work as a sternman for her father, the island's most successful lobsterman, but he won't hear of it. Ruth's peculiar family history conspires with her own immaturity to keep her on the island in a state of agitated suspension. Her grandmother and mother spent their lives working as virtual slaves for the Ellises, a wealthy dynasty that stripped the island of its granite and Ruth's family of its dignity. The Ellises are now down to a few ancient members - hysterically described in all their self-absorption - but they're still trying to exert their influence. Determined to resist them and their controlling generosity, Ruth turns down their offer of college tuition to loiter around the island, alternately concerned and annoyed with her father and his quarrelsome friends. She spends her days chatting with Mrs. Pommeroy, her sweet foster mother who supports herself by cutting the hair of everyone on the island. Mrs. Pommeroy had always hoped Ruth would marry one of her seven boys, but her boys are more numerous than desirable. Ruth's other companion is old Senator Simon Adams, the island's archaeological authority who was never a senator nor an archaeological authority. He dreams of putting his collection of artifacts (junk) into a museum of natural history. But his greater concern is providing employment for one of Mrs. Pommeroy's mentally challenged sons. His latest quest concerns the tusks of a circus elephant that died in a shipwreck 138 years ago. Ruth and the senator spend weeks watching young Webster trudge through the mud flats looking for such treasures. This is all funny for us, but it's no life for a smart young woman, and Ruth knows it. In the midst of her boredom and despair, she spots Owney Wishnell, the quiet nephew of a wealthy minister from the other island. Think "Romeo and Juliet" with a Maine drawl and a much happier ending. It turns out ya can get thah from heah. "Stern Men" maintains a tricky balance between romance and tragedy, the comic and the grotesque. Gilbert demonstrates a sweet care for these wounded, quirky characters with all their foibles and limitations. She's particularly sensitive to the way they talk or, more commonly, sulk. If there's anything to complain about in "Stern Men," it's clustered at the end. Why, in such a delightfully original story, are we served up a clich sex scene that reads like something from the true confessions column of a men's magazine? (Gilbert was a writer for GQ when she wrote this novel.) Second, and perhaps more disappointing, the most substantial character development takes place off-stage during a five-year gap between the end of the story and a brief epilogue that lets us know how wonderfully everything turned out once everyone started behaving better. Having detailed these people's stagnant lives so effectively, Gilbert seems unwilling to describe their molting process during the crucial phase. But these are minor complaints about a book that's perfect for summer reading and deep enough to crack the prevailing wisdom that competition is the highest state of being. Beneath the waves of wit and romance, "Stern Men" is a rich meal. http://www.csmonitor.com/2000/0720/p1...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I wish certain books could be fitted with a big neon light flashing “NOT WORTH IT” so I wouldn’t waste my time. There is nothing wrong with this novel, per se; however, it was likened to John Irving but has none of his spark – the characters are pointlessly, boringly idiosyncratic; the incidents felt clichéd and the language either dull or silly. Gilbert’s trying for quirky New England family comedy crossed with chick lit, but I don’t get it. Give me John Irving any day. [With apologies for the I wish certain books could be fitted with a big neon light flashing “NOT WORTH IT” so I wouldn’t waste my time. There is nothing wrong with this novel, per se; however, it was likened to John Irving but has none of his spark – the characters are pointlessly, boringly idiosyncratic; the incidents felt clichéd and the language either dull or silly. Gilbert’s trying for quirky New England family comedy crossed with chick lit, but I don’t get it. Give me John Irving any day. [With apologies for the rather shallow commentary - this was all I wrote after I read the book in September 2011!]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ericka Clouther

    Perfectly cute plot to pass the time. Nothing terrible or amazing here. Skippable, but if you want a relaxing read on your New England vacation, this might be good.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Here is fair warning: If you are looking for a book to fill the hole left by Eat, Pray, Love, reading Stern Men is like trying to shove a square lobster trap into that round hole. It doesn't quite fit the bill. I really wanted to like this book. After Eat, Pray, Love I thought it would be a pretty sure bet that I would love almost anything the Elizabeth Gilbert set down on paper, and I was eager to check out her earlier work of fiction. What this book does well: You can almost smell the salt air Here is fair warning: If you are looking for a book to fill the hole left by Eat, Pray, Love, reading Stern Men is like trying to shove a square lobster trap into that round hole. It doesn't quite fit the bill. I really wanted to like this book. After Eat, Pray, Love I thought it would be a pretty sure bet that I would love almost anything the Elizabeth Gilbert set down on paper, and I was eager to check out her earlier work of fiction. What this book does well: You can almost smell the salt air and you can definitely feel the boredom and the generations of animosity between the people of Fort Niles and Courne Haven Islands. Gilbert knows how to paint a gritty and lively picture of the backdrop for her heroine Ruth and the cast of characters around her. Where it falters: Descriptions of the history of the islands and the families living there seem to go on for days. They overwhelm the brief pockets of action in the story. It ekes forward at a painfully slow pace. When I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert speak last year at the Book Group Expo in San Jose she cited Charles Dickens as one of her favorite authors and a big influence on her work. His influence was apparent in her stylistic choices for Stern Men. If you like sweeping prose descriptions that go on for fistfulls of pages filling you in on on every detail of backstory, this book may win you over. However, if you are looking forward to something actually happening, you might want to settle in and get comfortable because you might have to wait for a while. The book does seem to pick up and redeem itself in the last 40 - 50 pages or so, Elizabeth Gilbert's confident and original voice that I'd been waiting for seemed to resurface and shine through to bring the story home.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katische Haberfield

    I actually shed a tear when this finished. I listened to this as an audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to remind myself it was a novel as it felt so real- I found the characters frustrating but also loved that frustration because it felt authentic- that to me is exactly what anyone would have felt. I can see how this book set the path for Liz to write The Signature of all things.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Elizabeth Gilbert is, truly, an amazing writer. She has developed some colorful, lifelike characters, and you can see the journalist in her with the meticulous research she did for the book. Its only shortfall in my mind is in the storytelling...the yarn at the center of it isn't developed well enough to make it the page-turner I think it might otherwise be.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    The next book in my 30 Years 30 Books project done, and this one was a bit disappointing. The writing was repetitive and it took too long to get interesting. It did have a strong sense of place and characters, but I enjoyed Gilbert’s Signature of All Things infinitely more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Grant

    I was not a big fan of Eat-Love-Pray (the book, I somewhat enjoyed the movie version) but I thought I would give Gilbert another try. Not impressed at all. I was intrigued by the geographical significance and the background knowledge about lobsters and trapping, the lobster life and strife. However, I can not find one other aspect to positively respond.... The characters were flat, the dialog limited and choppy and the story was maybe hurried and limited. I think that one third of the book was -a I was not a big fan of Eat-Love-Pray (the book, I somewhat enjoyed the movie version) but I thought I would give Gilbert another try. Not impressed at all. I was intrigued by the geographical significance and the background knowledge about lobsters and trapping, the lobster life and strife. However, I can not find one other aspect to positively respond.... The characters were flat, the dialog limited and choppy and the story was maybe hurried and limited. I think that one third of the book was -a copy and paste-of the Profanity phrase "GD". I am not a fan of repeated unnecessary profanity and this was STRONG profanity. I was going to just give up and put it down but I thought that a poor review deserved a completion of the book. I did have "The Signature of All" as a loan but returned it without evening opening it. It is hard for me to be so negative about anyone's writing but this was just a waste of my time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lejla

    Simply not my cup of tea...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pam Tickner

    DNF. I had this as an audio book and had a problem with downloading the whole book. However after listening to the first few chapters I decided I really wasn't that interested.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Schuyler Wallace

    I recently read and reviewed Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” just finished “Stern Men,” and have “the Last American Man” waiting for me. You could say that Elizabeth Gilbert has smote me. “Stern Men” is her first novel, published in 2000, and is very different from “Signature.” It’s an earthy, profane, and witty study of Maine lobstermen, a total contrast to her intense account of a brilliant woman botanist who is at odds with the normal world. This book is about an equally I recently read and reviewed Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” just finished “Stern Men,” and have “the Last American Man” waiting for me. You could say that Elizabeth Gilbert has smote me. “Stern Men” is her first novel, published in 2000, and is very different from “Signature.” It’s an earthy, profane, and witty study of Maine lobstermen, a total contrast to her intense account of a brilliant woman botanist who is at odds with the normal world. This book is about an equally driven personality who is immersed in a world she wants to change. One can find similarities between the two novels, mainly in the intransigence of the two women. People with profoundly different attitudes who are constantly feuding inhabit two adjacent Maine islands. It’ a strange battle because the living conditions are eerily similar, most everyone is related to each other, and the struggle to make a living catching lobster is the principle way of life. But through the years a difference in the way of viewing and conducting life on each island has formed a rift that is deeply divisive, flaring into violence occasionally. The protagonist, Ruth Thomas, has been deeply disturbed about this conflict since childhood, and, although barely out of her teens, sets out to bring understanding and harmony to the two communities. She marries a handsome young lobsterman from a family across the war channel and together they create a commercial enterprise that both sides of the lobster war are forced to accept, an arrangement that eventually calms the troubled waters. That doesn’t sound like a momentous plot. But Elizabeth Gilbert can turn sour yogurt into ambrosia with her mastery of word and characterization. She does that here by presenting characters that resonate with the reader, accurate accounts of the lobster fishing business, glorious scenic settings, and witty, acidic dialogue. Count me as a Gilbert groupie. You owe it to yourself to read her books. Soon I will have read three of her works in a row. I haven’t done that since my younger days when I devoured the Tarzan series.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I was prompted to read "Stern Men" after reading Gilbert's "Signature of All Things". I love her narrative style, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Unlike many readers/reviewers here on Good Reads, I wasn't immensely inspired by "Eat Pray Love", and I would advise that if you are looking for anything like that with this book, you're looking in the wrong place. For one thing, this is Gilbert's first foray into fiction, and I would say that she was successful with a fun and engrossing I was prompted to read "Stern Men" after reading Gilbert's "Signature of All Things". I love her narrative style, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Unlike many readers/reviewers here on Good Reads, I wasn't immensely inspired by "Eat Pray Love", and I would advise that if you are looking for anything like that with this book, you're looking in the wrong place. For one thing, this is Gilbert's first foray into fiction, and I would say that she was successful with a fun and engrossing tale filled with quirky characters. The men who work on these islands and make a living as lobstermen are salty, but so are the women. I liked the main character of Ruth Thomas and felt she had true, believable spunk. She had a lot of conflict with both being bored at living on Fort Niles, but also feeling there was an ultimate destiny there for her life. The characters and their history are all painted vividly, in true Elizabeth Gilbert style. (The character I personally took a little issue with was Cal Cooley. I found his fascination with young Ruth a little... well, gross, given that he was quite a bit older than her. He was just odd and I totally understood why Ruth found him a bit repulsive.) I don't want to write too much in this review for fear of giving too much away. If you're a fan of Gilbert's and like page-turning fiction, give this a shot and don't put heavy expectations on it. It should be a fun, light read - and I found it quite engaging. Funny at times, too. It doesn't have the polish of "Signature", but it's pretty close. Gilbert has a strong voice in both fiction and nonfiction. If I could rate it 4.5 stars, I would, but I am erring more on the side of 4.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Filipa

    3, 5 stars Elizabeth is one of my favorite writers and because of that, I need to read every book she ever wrote and will ever write. She is one of my favorite writers for a lot of things, but one of them is because of her writing. I love how versatile her writing is - how she writes memoirs, writes fiction, writes non-fiction all with the same wonderful style. She has a peculiar writing and that is especially noticeable when she writes fiction. Stern Men certainly shows that and people who are 3, 5 stars Elizabeth is one of my favorite writers and because of that, I need to read every book she ever wrote and will ever write. She is one of my favorite writers for a lot of things, but one of them is because of her writing. I love how versatile her writing is - how she writes memoirs, writes fiction, writes non-fiction all with the same wonderful style. She has a peculiar writing and that is especially noticeable when she writes fiction. Stern Men certainly shows that and people who are familiar with her work can recognize in this book something of a experiment. What I see in this book is Elizabeth making an experiment with her writing, honing it, perfecting to the writing we know and recognize as wonderful in later books. I see her trying to establish her own unique style of authorship. About the story, I quite liked it. I suppose I was expecting a little bit more romance but I admit I was fooled by the synopsis of the book. What I got was a story about a fierce girl who didn't always know where she belonged or what to do with her life, who refused to live the life others planned for her and that eventually found her purpose in life and kicked ass. But that is okay for me because I enjoyed Ruth Thomas and some other characters like Senator Addams, Mrs. Pommeroy, Angus (although he's so rude) and even Mr. Ellis. I enjoyed knowing more about the lobster business as was something I didn't know anything about. All in all, I was not disappointed. It is not the best book I have ever read, but I enjoyed enough to read it in just a little more than two days.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teea

    This is really a 2.5. I can only relate it to eating sunflower seeds.....a whole lot of work for very little pleasure. True to lobster men vocab the conversations are liberally seasoned with the mother of all words. So, I became quite efficient at reading over them as well as the Lords name in vain. ugh.... I hate that. The story is "artistically" choppy. The stories of the islanders are intertwined and then smooshed together to give you an "inside" look into their complex (or simple) lives. By This is really a 2.5. I can only relate it to eating sunflower seeds.....a whole lot of work for very little pleasure. True to lobster men vocab the conversations are liberally seasoned with the mother of all words. So, I became quite efficient at reading over them as well as the Lords name in vain. ugh.... I hate that. The story is "artistically" choppy. The stories of the islanders are intertwined and then smooshed together to give you an "inside" look into their complex (or simple) lives. By the description I was expecting a beautiful and well written love story. 3/4 of the way through the story she jumps a brow beaten young man she vaguely knows (in great detail I might add, blech!) and gets knocked up. Is this what passes as true love? The only reason I gave it an extra half is because I loved the prologue. I should have jut skipped the book and read the ending......who knew? Unimportant side note: I enjoyed Cathrine Gilbert Murdock's (author's sister) writing style more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Having spent summers since my birth on a small Maine coast island similar to Fort Niles, I am very familiar with the lobster wars, and eagerly anticipated listening to this book. But what I found was a monotonous chronology of events which left me completely unengaged. What little personal conversation occurred between the characters often involved a prolonged litany of expletives, as if the author could not think of anything else for them to say. Although the author repeatedly made a point of Having spent summers since my birth on a small Maine coast island similar to Fort Niles, I am very familiar with the lobster wars, and eagerly anticipated listening to this book. But what I found was a monotonous chronology of events which left me completely unengaged. What little personal conversation occurred between the characters often involved a prolonged litany of expletives, as if the author could not think of anything else for them to say. Although the author repeatedly made a point of the very distinct Maine accent, the narrator just didn't capture it. She sounded as much like a Brooklynite as a Maine fisherman. I would think that for an audiobook that emphasizes a local accent it would be important to find a narrator who is able to employ that accent in her reading. While there were a few interesting points in the book, overall it was a huge disappointment.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Josh Gould

    Reading other reviews, I have a feeling that (completely by accident) I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert's books in the right order. It seems that a lot of people who read Eat Pray Love first are disappointed in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I agree with the comparisons to John Irving, one of my favorites. My only wish is that she had written out the plot rather than taking it to a climax and then stuffing half of the plot line into an epilogue. I would have been completely Reading other reviews, I have a feeling that (completely by accident) I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert's books in the right order. It seems that a lot of people who read Eat Pray Love first are disappointed in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I agree with the comparisons to John Irving, one of my favorites. My only wish is that she had written out the plot rather than taking it to a climax and then stuffing half of the plot line into an epilogue. I would have been completely satisfied if the book were twice as long. Stern Men is completely different from The Signature of All Things, and from the other reviews I assume that Eat Pray Love is completely different from these two as well. I am impressed by anyone who can write well, and even more impressed by authors who are diverse enough to write well in many different styles.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Excellent story! I really like Ruth and his father. I am so glad that their relationship improved after Ruth's pregnancy. The book taught me a lesson. You can make a way out when you are smart and determined. Nearly all people expect and want Ruth to go to college. But no, she doesn't. She like her hometown and she likes fishing lobster. And in the end with her wit, she is very successful. She even makes other villagers successful. I am very proud of her confrontation with her influential Excellent story! I really like Ruth and his father. I am so glad that their relationship improved after Ruth's pregnancy. The book taught me a lesson. You can make a way out when you are smart and determined. Nearly all people expect and want Ruth to go to college. But no, she doesn't. She like her hometown and she likes fishing lobster. And in the end with her wit, she is very successful. She even makes other villagers successful. I am very proud of her confrontation with her influential grandfather. She has grown so much and confident, and isn't afraid anymore. She is braver than her father and many other people. I love stories set by the sea. The book reminds me of Coastliners by Joanne Harris, another excellent novel as well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Frieda

    I wanted to read more Elizabeth Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love, so randomly chose this book to read next. I'm glad I didn't look at the reviews, because I might have been dissuaded. It took awhile to get into, but once I did, I loved it. The main character is very likable and funny, and there were many hilarious moments throughout. It was an unusual book, and it impressed me that she made lobster fishing, something I would have thought would be very boring, very interesting and entertaining. I wanted to read more Elizabeth Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love, so randomly chose this book to read next. I'm glad I didn't look at the reviews, because I might have been dissuaded. It took awhile to get into, but once I did, I loved it. The main character is very likable and funny, and there were many hilarious moments throughout. It was an unusual book, and it impressed me that she made lobster fishing, something I would have thought would be very boring, very interesting and entertaining. There are so many great characters and stories within the main plot. I'm more a fan of Elizabeth than ever now. This was her first novel? That is incredible. She is amazingly talented, smart, and funny. What a great storyteller.

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