Candlemas Bay by Ruth Moore

This book was originally published in 1950 and reprinted by Blackberry Books in the 1990’s. 308 pages

The Ellis family was a well known and respected family in Candlemas Bay, ME for many generations. Nathaniel Ellis settled it when he was just 19. Grampie, Jebron Ellis, is the last of the old line. His son, Guy, is an alcoholic. Guy’s son Jeb is made from the old mould and wants to learn everything he can about his ancestors and their livelihood -fishing. Guy does nothing to help him. Grampie takes him under his wing.

Highly in debt, and owing Grampie a large debt for a loan to get a new modern fishing boat, Guy moved his family of 8 in with Grampie and Guy’s three sisters. Tensions are high with sister Candy who thinks she rules the roost. Could there be a bit of insanity going on with her?
A tragedy happens and everyones lives are forever changed.

I loved, loved, loved this one of Ruth Moore’s books. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in two days. Ms. Moore is a master at communicating a place and a people, their thoughts, their talk, their geography. She takes you there to feel the spray of the ocean and feel the damp of the fog and smell the food cooking in the kitchen. This is the third of her books I’ve read, you can read the other two reviews here. I have 4 more of her books on the shelf to read and I’m hoping I can find the rest someday!

This is a nice write up on Ruth Moore if your interested.

Peggy Ann

The Fire Balloon by Ruth Moore

This is the cover on a paperback reprint of the original 1948 novel. I have a lovely 1948 hardback edition with no dust jacket so I don’t have a synopsis for you.

This the story of the Sewell family and life in ‘Scratch Corner’. Scratch Corner was the nickname for Carter’s Landing, a small coastal Maine village. But when the summer people started coming they wanted something nice to call ‘their’ town and successfully had the name changed to Granite Hook.

The Sewell’s consisted of Gram Sarah, the sharp tongued matriarch and her two sons, Sylvanus and Morgan and their families. Sylvanus lives by the old school. Slow and methodical, provides for his family, but doesn’t want for all the trappings and extra’s in life. A man of very few words, but strong and honest and well respected. His wife Phoebe is much like him. They have five children and the two oldest, Wes and Theoline are prominent in the storyline.

Wes has spent his summers working for the Beacons, a wealthy summer family. He’s been led to feel he is part of the family and expects to be offered a fine job, his ticket out, when he finishes school. But as this summer of his 17th year plays out he finds out things aren’t always as they seem and there is a big divide between classes. When the job is offered will he take it or stay in Scratch Corner?

Theoline dislikes the Beacon’s and their snobbery and it drives her crazy that Wes ‘grovels’ to them for acceptance into their world. She knows it will never happen and it is a bone between the brother and sister. Theo takes a summer job at the diner in Bellport and finds love or what she thinks is love. But will she learn what real love is from an unlikely source?

Morgan is the younger Sewell and like his mother, driven. He works like tomorrow might not come and wants to have lots tucked away for a rainy day. He has purchased some land and intends to build a weir there. But the previous owner has let old Job Carter and his two sons live in an old farm house on the land for years and Job feels like it’s his land now. What lengths will he go to to sabotage Morgan’s weir? Will blood be spilled over it?   Morgan’s new bride, Emily, from the south is pregnant and depressed in her new isolated life here on the rough coast of Maine. She is alone all the time because Morgan is on the sea from way before sun up to after dark. She and her mother-in-law, Gram Sarah do not see eye to eye on anything. When Emily befriends old Uncle Wheat and Floyd Craddock in her desperate need for friends will she push Gram too far?

Several climactic build ups and exciting scenes in this book. I have to say I don’t think this one is as good as The Weir, but I still enjoyed it and looking forward to all the rest of her books.

Beautiful, evocative descriptions of the rugged Maine coast and it’s unpredictable weather, and solid authentic characters give us the kind of superb tale we expect from Ruth Moore.

”  On the afternoon of the fourth day, the storm blew itself out. The wind stopped in the middle of a gust, as if all at once it had got tired; the sky lightened and in the west appeared a patch of milky cloud, mottled with baby blue. It seemed in almost a matter of minutes the sun was out and the clouds low down on the eastern horizon. For a while they lay, a narrowing strip that changed from blue-gray to silver, and then to pearl, as they slid out of sight in the distance. On the sea, big rollers still tumbled, but the arrogance was gone out of them. Crack Corn Ledges were a full acre of foam, boiling white against blue, but the breeze across them was soft and warm, smelling of wet leaves and loam from the land.
  The storm had left the earth as sodden as an old mop. Mud squelched underfoot, gave way suddenly and overran rubbers. Hardhack Brook was out of its banks and lay in a series of crazy lakes in a dozen fields. The shore line was littered with wreckage-seaweed torn from the sea bottom, starfish and shells, mashed into a vast tangle with lobster buoys, warp and traps, and a hundred varieties of flotsam. On the end of the Hook, a twenty-foot section of fish wharf, broken away from somewhere down the coast, washed up and down in the breakers, its big timbers grinding to fur on the bare rock with a noise like thunder.
  The village came out into the golden weather. Windows were thrown open. Little boys, where they could get out of sight of their mothers, took off shoes and stockings and ran wildly through puddles of icy water. It looked as if the storm, in its ramping, had found somewhere the first warm and pleasant afternoon of spring and in departing had dropped it down carelessly over the land.”

Hope you can get your hands one of her books!

Peggy Ann

The Weir by Ruth Moore

This book was originally published in 1943. I have a reprint by Blackberry Books which has acquired the rights to republish all of Ms. Moore’s works. Yea!


I loved this book. My favorite read of the year so far. I can’t wait to get all of her books! If you love Maine and stories of her islands, coast and her people you will want to search out  Ruth Moore books.

The story centers around Comey Island. The main family is Hardy and Josie Turner and their 3 children and Hardy’s elderly mom who lives with them. Generations of Turners lived and fished on Comey Island. Hardy has been tending a fishing weir for several years and not made any money from it. He’s discouraged and depressed. Wants to leave the island, but yet can’t bring himself to break from it as it is a part of him and his way of life. The rough Maine winters and summer storms are working against him. He got an education when he was young and was set to become a businessman but the pull of the island brought him home. He sees himself as a failure.

His oldest son Leonard chose to live on the island and fish. He is partners in a trawler boat with his best friend Joe Comey and Joe’s older brother Morris. Morris is a bad man and adds the spice to this story. He is very intimidating and everyone is a little afraid of him. Joe and Morris live in the family home with their widowed mom and youngest brother Saylor. Morris had went away and traveled the world on commercial fishing boats and only came home when his father was drowned in a fishing accident. He has only disdain for the island and its people.

There is conflict and gossip and the island has become a boiling pot. The Turners long for the days of old when it was a tight community working together. We get an inside look at a way of life disintegrating.

There’s a love triangle between Leonard, Alice Lacey and Orin. Will she give up her dreams of the city and marry Leonard? Or marry Orin because he is so easy going and will do whatever she wants? Will Leonard give up the island and fishing to make Alice happy?

There is a terrible fishing accident and a young man is dead. Was it an accident or was it murder? The story really builds in tension and suspense. Hard to put down.

It’s set in the 1940’s, Haral and Saylor are hooked on a movie serial, The Green Archer and can’t wait for Saturday nights to go to the mainland to the movies. The families that work in the sardine factory make .30 cents an hour! There’s no electricity on the island or indoor plumbing. All of these details make a fascinating trip back to the ’40’s. I loved it!

Ms. Moore writes wonderful, full characters. Her use of local dialect adds depth to her characters and creates a strong sense of community. You invest in these people and I am sure I will find myself thinking about them for a long time.

Here are a couple of sites about fishing weirs and herring if your interested.

A bibliography of Ms. Moore’s novels. She also wrote poetry.

The Weir (1943)   ISBN 978-0-942396-48-5
Spoonhandle (1946)   ISBN 978-0-942396-49-2
The Fire Balloon (1948)   ISBN 978-0-942396-78-2
Candlemas Bay (1950)   ISBN 978-0-942396-70-6
Jeb Ellis of Candlemas Bay (1952)
A Fair Wind Home (1953)
Speak to the Winds (1956)   ISBN 978-0-942396-54-6
A Walk Down Maine Street (1960)   ISBN 978-0-942396-56-0
Second Growth (1962)
The Sea Flower (1964)
The Gold and Silver Hooks (1969)
“Lizzie” & Caroline (1972)
Dinosaur Bite (1976)
Sarah Walked Over the Mountain (1979)

Hope you get a chance to read her books!

Peggy Ann