cover of book

Castle Nowhere: Lake-Country Sketches
by Constance Fenimore Woolson
introduction by Margot Livesey
University of Michigan Press, 2004
Paper: 978-0-472-03008-8
Library of Congress Classification PS3362.C37 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.4


Castle Nowhere is Constance Woolson's collection of stories set for the most part in the Great Lakes, in particular northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron near Detroit.

Several themes inhabit Woolson's writing: an environmental consciousness and concern with landscapes; an awareness of the complexities of race; and an abidingly careful eye for the shallowness that sometimes accompanies wealth or social pretensions. She also had a unique perspective as a woman who pioneered the use of controversial subjects---such as unrequited or misplaced passion---and methods in fiction during a time that valorized domesticity.

As Margot Livesey notes in her introduction, reading about thwarted love is only one of the pleasures to be found in Castle Nowhere. "The majority of these stories are set in remote areas on the shores of Lake Michigan, which Woolson evokes with great vividness and beauty while always remaining keenly aware that beauty in no way mitigates hardship. As a writer, she was nearly always looking over her shoulder, and many, if not all, of these stories were written at a time when she no longer visited the Lake and her beloved Mackinac Island."

Contemporary readers will find a curiously modern atmosphere in Woolson's stories, as well as a distinct regional flavor in her careful renderings of the Great Lakes landscape. As such, Castle Nowhere represents a rare woman's voice in literature of its period and setting.

Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894) was born in New Hampshire and moved to Cleveland shortly thereafter. She spent time on Mackinac Island, Michigan, then traveled to Florida before moving to Europe. Much of her time there was spent in Italy. She died in Venice in 1894. Novelist Margot Livesey is the author of Eva Moves the Furniture and Homework.

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