Official Review: The Last Skipjack by Mary H Fox

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Official Review: The Last Skipjack by Mary H Fox

Post by Brendan Donaghy » 01 Oct 2019, 04:39

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Last Skipjack" by Mary H Fox.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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The Last Skipjack, by Mary Hastings Fox, tells the story of a group of children growing up in the small town of Hurlock, Maryland. The events take place in the 1950s and the 1960s. The title is taken from the type of boat which was, the author informs us, ‘the oldest kind of oyster dredging boat on the Chesapeake.’

The book opens in 1955 and, including the epilogue, runs through to 1978. Ten-year-old Celie Mowbray and her younger sibling Hannah strike up a friendship with black sisters Ava and Sari Skipton. The Skipton girls arrive with a group of migrant workers who are seeking employment on the Mowbray farm. They are joined by Ava and Sari’s stepbrother Gabe and the children quickly form a close bond. The core of this story is the children’s enduring friendship across the years in the heart of a highly segregated, deeply discriminatory society.

The book is multi-layered, however, and other themes are explored too. Sibling relationships, love, bereavement, together with the trials of growing up in difficult family circumstances, are all considered. The Chesapeake Bay area is a society in the throes of economic change, so poverty and hardship are commonplace. Hard times and lack of employment opportunities contribute to the rising racial tensions in the area, even as the harsh conditions are experienced, to some degree, by both the black and white communities. As the narrative moves into the 1960s, the campaign for black civil rights has a major impact on the area. The group of children, now young adults, are caught up in the seismic events happening around them, events which threaten to tear their friendships apart.

I enjoyed this book the further I got into it. The story starts when the main characters are quite young and, for the first few chapters, one has the impression that it is a book written for children or teenagers. The young characters seem trapped, at this stage, between discussing childish concerns, or alternatively, having thoughts or making observations that seem a bit beyond the ken of children their age. Happily, the book grows and matures with the children. It is much more adult in every respect from about the sixth or seventh chapter onwards.

The characters are authentic and credible, their surroundings rich in detail. We are given a panoramic view of both: the story is told, not from the perspective of a single character, but rather from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator. This allows the reader to see and hear so much more, as we are experiencing the world of the novel through the eyes of many different characters. The author shows great skill in adapting the narrative voice depending upon whose perspective is being given.

I also appreciated the device of commencing most of the chapters with a Headnote. These few lines provide the historical and social context for the chapter that follows. Information is provided on social, economic and geographical issues pertaining to the area. Later chapters describe the political upheaval in the area, at which point the Headnotes feature inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

I am happy to give this book four out of four stars. I picked up a few minor typographical mistakes, but in a book of over three hundred pages, these were by no means excessive. I would recommend it to those who like historical novels, even though the history dealt with is still recent. It has a few ‘curse’ words and some erotic scenes. It also deals with difficult issues such as racism, bereavement, and sexual violence. For those reasons, it is probably more appropriate for adult readers. There is nothing of a religious nature that should cause offense.

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The Last Skipjack
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Post by mmm17 » 02 Oct 2019, 08:08

I like the idea of inspirational quotes commencing chapters. Great review!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 03 Oct 2019, 03:18

mmm17 wrote:
02 Oct 2019, 08:08
I like the idea of inspirational quotes commencing chapters. Great review!
Thank you for commenting!

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Post by Meg98 » 03 Oct 2019, 10:22

This sounds like a really interesting book. I would like to read this one! Thanks for this great review. Cheers:)
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Post by esp1975 » 03 Oct 2019, 16:38

I like this style of book, ones that follow long term friendships and how those friendships change as the world changes, or how those friendships change the world of the people in them.

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Post by kdstrack » 03 Oct 2019, 19:13

The Headnotes seem to be a positive addition to the fictional story. I like this historical aspect that gives context to the story. I enjoyed your interesting analysis of this book. Thanks.

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Post by spluficvictory » 04 Oct 2019, 07:26

Thanks for the insightful review. The book sounds pretty interesting but i am not a fan of historical novels. I also like the style of the book.
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Post by SamWilliams » 04 Oct 2019, 08:23

I would really love to read this book. The context of the book kinda relate me back to some memories.. a bad one really but that I finally overcame it.

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Post by Tomah » 04 Oct 2019, 12:01

I'm interested in seeing how this novel deals with long-term friendships amidst moments of social upheaval like in the '60s. It definitely sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for the review!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 12:56

Meg98 wrote:
03 Oct 2019, 10:22
This sounds like a really interesting book. I would like to read this one! Thanks for this great review. Cheers:)
Read it if you get the chance - thanks for taking time to comment!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 12:59

esp1975 wrote:
03 Oct 2019, 16:38
I like this style of book, ones that follow long term friendships and how those friendships change as the world changes, or how those friendships change the world of the people in them.
You've just summed up this book quite nicely. Many thanks!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 13:00

kdstrack wrote:
03 Oct 2019, 19:13
The Headnotes seem to be a positive addition to the fictional story. I like this historical aspect that gives context to the story. I enjoyed your interesting analysis of this book. Thanks.
I found the Headnotes very useful, as otherwise I wouldn't have known too much about this area of America. Thanks for commenting!

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Brendan Donaghy
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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 13:04

spluficvictory wrote:
04 Oct 2019, 07:26
Thanks for the insightful review. The book sounds pretty interesting but i am not a fan of historical novels. I also like the style of the book.
Thank you very much for taking the time to comment!

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 13:06

SamWilliams wrote:
04 Oct 2019, 08:23
I would really love to read this book. The context of the book kinda relate me back to some memories.. a bad one really but that I finally overcame it.
Thank you for that. I hope you get to read it and I hope it's one that you enjoy.

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 04 Oct 2019, 13:07

Tomah wrote:
04 Oct 2019, 12:01
I'm interested in seeing how this novel deals with long-term friendships amidst moments of social upheaval like in the '60s. It definitely sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for the review!
You're welcome, thanks for commenting!

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