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This Desired Place

This Desired PLace by Julia Older /

New Hampshire poet and author has produced a second novel set at the Isles of Shoals. Set in the 17th century, the story leapfrogs from one dramatic Seacoast setting to the next during the founding years of colonial New England.




This Desired Place, the Isles of Shoals

MORE on the Shoals and more Books

This desired place, a novel of the Isls of Shoals by Appledore PressIn this bold and sprawling independently-published novel, NH poet Julia Older tackles the complex task of sewing together this patchwork history. Her hero, Thom Taylor, bumps into just about every major character depicted in local 17th century lore. This era is arguably the least understood and most fascinating period in New England history. But with so few dots to connect, the author must fill in a vast canvas of detail. How these people – most of whom remain anonymous and came from a wide variety of cultures -- actually dressed or spoke, thought or acted, especially on these isolated rocks off the mainland, is left almost exclusively to the writer’s skill and vision.

The challenge to writing about the early days of European occupation at the Isles of Shoals is that we know so little about what happened back then. Records are scanty and, as anyone who has studied them knows, what we have is as likely to be wrong as right. Legends abound, but they are largely tales told in the 19th century by a new wave of Shoalers who largely drove off the surviving fishing families while creating a new tourist business. Celia Thaxter’s famous Among the Isles of Shoals, is as much a work of fiction as fact. Celia, whose father Thomas Laighton owned the Appledore Hotel, lacked formal schooling, but could spin a lively yarn. The facts she got often came down from illiterate fishing families or spotty public records. As a result, our view of the Isles of Shoals in the 1600s is seen largely through a Victorian filter. What they knew about local history 200 years in the past is colored by their own mannered and romantic age, an era spiced with a taste for spiritualism and superstition. The researcher is dependent on 17th century documents from other locations. Those who wonder why so few New England novels since Hawthorne are set in this period need only look at the bibliography in this book.  -- JDR


In the second novel of Julia Older's Isles of Shoals "trilogy," Thom Taylor sails to the New World in the 17th century only to be washed onto the lawless Shoals at Hog Island off the Maine and New Hampshire coasts.

Within days the bawdy islander Phillip Babb has the shipwrecked orphan indentured at a fishing stage and up to his knees in cod. The Babbs and their Barbadoes servant Pru are but a few of the New Englanders who encounter the narrator as he comes of age.

Thom gets involved in the plot to kidnap the first New Hampshire governor John Cutt, becomes entangled in forced Indian marches by Major Walderne, witnesses the trial of accused "witch" Goody Cole, gives chase to Captain Quelch and Captain Kidd, rubs shoulders with Judge Samuel Sewall, gets caught up in the hanging fervor of Boston big-wig Cotton Mather, and fends off "marmalade madams" at Strawbery Banke. This Desired Place is a deeply researched saga of pirates and Puritans struggling for wealth and power when adolescent America was growing into a nation.

This Desired Place
Hancock NH 03449-0174
BUY THE BOOK from the publisher
Hardcover, $26


"History comes to life on New England's storied Isles of Shoals in Julia Older's This Desired Place, an exciting blend of Colonial fact and fiction, a stirring and salty tale of Indian warfare, pirates and Puritans."
David Watters, Director, Center for New England Culture.

"Older magnificently and viscerally brings to life the experience of American settlers on the New Hampshire seacoast. The author's skill in weaving together known history with human interaction makes one wonder if she might have been living in the 1600s!"
- Cally Gurley, Curator, Maine Women Writers Collection.

Critics on THE ISLAND QUEEN: Celia Thaxter of the Isles of Shoals

Island Queen by Julia Older on"Who could resist a combination of beauty, poetry and blood, a heroine who was a woman both of and ahead of her time, a place which holds itself apart even today? This is a real tour de force." -
Marilis Hornidge, The Courier Gazette.

"A fitting tribute to the Isles' famous lady with a well-written and well-researched biographical novel."
- Jack Barnes, Maine Sunday Telegram.

"Compared to some of the trash that occupies current bookshelves, The Island Queen is a wholesome reflection of the innocence of yesterday and a welcome contribution to the literary world."
- Zel Levin, The Cape Codder.


JULIA OLDER has written twenty-five books starting with APPALACHIAN ODYSSEY, a personal account of her 2000-mile walk on the Appalachian Trail. Older's story translations BLUES FOR A BLACK CAT by French author Boris Vian have editions in the States and New Delhi, India. Her own stories, poetry and essays have appeared in Best of Furious Fiction Online, The New Yorker, Entelechy International, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

In addition to Pushcart Prize nominations in prose and poetry, her awards include the Daniel Varoujan Prize, Hopwood Award, and recent writing grants from the Puffin Foundation and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Her father Drake was related to the British Drakes whose famous son Sir Francis looted many a galleon on his voyage around the world. Before she was land-locked, Older crossed the Atlantic on British and Yugoslav freighters, sailed the Mediterranean from Piraeus, Greece, to Tangiers, and fished off a Pacific banana boat from Mazatlán, Mexico, to San Francisco. She writes fulltime in southern New Hampshire.

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