A New Person in Town Drives the Plot of Many Novels

Most of us know what it’s like to move to a new town or city — whether it’s to start college, begin a job, escape a bad marriage, retire, or for other reasons. So we really relate to fictional characters who also do that. We watch as they find a home or apartment, deal with initial loneliness and homesickness, navigate different cultural norms, try to make friends, become an object of curiosity to new neighbors and coworkers, etc.

Numerous novels have that “new person in town” element, and I’ll discuss a few of those books today.

I recently read John Grisham’s Camino Island, which describes the theft of the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s five novels and then focuses mostly on two characters who move to the Florida isle of the title. One, Bruce Cable, had settled on Camino two decades earlier and opened a very successful bookstore — yet he still allegedly dabbles in stolen manuscripts despite not needing to financially. The other, struggling author Mercer Mann, is convinced by a certain investigative entity to spend six months on the island (which she visited as a kid) to spy on Cable.

(Grisham’s novel has the added bonus of mentioning many real-life authors and novels.)

Other contemporary best-selling writers — including Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Tyler, Liane Moriarty, and Stephen King — have also been among the many novelists to use the “new person in town” theme in interesting ways.

Oates’ novel Solstice has protagonist Monica Jensen move from New York City to a teaching job in rural Pennsylvania after her marriage ends. Some residents wonder why Monica left an exciting urban life for such a sleepy area, but the calmness of her new locale is something she needs, at least temporarily. Yet things become far from calm as she develops a very intense, problematic friendship with eccentric local artist Sheila Trask.

Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years has protagonist Delia Grinstead walk away from the husband and children who don’t appreciate her, and much of the novel focuses on how Delia adapts to a different locale and her new solitary life — and on whether Delia should return to her family.

In Big Little Lies, the Liane Moriarty novel that inspired the hit TV series gets its page-turning plot going when single mother Jane Chapman moves to an Australian town with her young son and tries to fit in with the wealthier families who also have children in Ziggy’s new school.

Rose Daniels in Stephen King’s Rose Madder leaves home to escape her abusive police officer husband Norman, and then sees her new life (in a city that might be Chicago) become threatened as Norman tries to hunt her down.

Many older novels, of course, also feature characters starting anew in different places. One prime example is George Eliot’s Silas Marner, in which the title character moves from one England town to another after a “friend” frames him for a crime and then marries Marner’s fiancee. The bitter Silas becomes a miser until something almost magical changes his life.

What are some of your favorite novels that fit this topic?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — which discusses an old train station, standardized testing, and more — is here.

90 thoughts on “A New Person in Town Drives the Plot of Many Novels

  1. Oh Dave, so glad you read Camino Island by John Grisham what a book it was. The book even a week ago after so long is back in nyt’s top five.
    Away from courtroom to the beach, watching turtles laying eggs and folks came around to protest them.
    I thing I’ll look for the book in our book sale coming up in June.

    I know I am late, getting so involved in trump’s mischiefs was exhausting.

    I am sure you are celebrating mother’s day with Maria and your lovely wife. Knowing you just lost yours a couple of weeks ago.

    Peace

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    • Thank you for the comment, bebe — and for recommending “Camino Island”! An excellent Grisham book! And, yes, beach scenes and other non-courtroom scenes in that novel by a writer who often (but not always) focuses on the legal system.

      Happy Mothers’ Day! I hope it has been a good one for you. We came back from eating out about an hour ago.

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      • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë,
        Jane was emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins then she took a job as a Governess and a tutor to a little french girl, after growing up in the Orphanage .
        Walking out in the woods one day in the nearby town a horseman passed by and later fell. Without knowing who that man was she came to his rescue.
        We all read her transformation from an abused little girl to a strong willed passionate adult who fell in love to the man who was her employer Mr. Rochester.

        I know Dave it was your favorite book, mine too after ” To Kill a Mockingbird”.

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        • Great example, bebe, and very well described! Jane was definitely a “new person in town” more than once in Charlotte Brontë’s terrific novel — also including where she ended up after her desperate flight later in the book.

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  2. I propose, as Ultimate in Category,(UIC), Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger”. After all, as a stirrer of foment in community, it’s gonna be tough to top The Devil!

    I have been reading entirely too many MC Beaton detective novels featuring small-town Highland copper Hamish Macbeth– I’ve read 32 out of a possible 36. Somewhere well before I hit #30ish, the author jumped the shark, before going back for another jump or 3. She has repeated descriptions, plot points, character types, settings, everything. One of her many repeats, though, I think, inevitable give the dictates of the series, is the arrival of a stranger among the insular inhabitants of a remote Scottish town, usually resulting in a death of either townsperson or stranger. Or 3.

    Less compulsive completists than myself might have stopped reading before now, but such types must appreciate that I bought the entire series on a libris for about a buck a book, and they were supposed to be a treat for my wife, sorta like the model train set Daddy bought for his son but can’t keep his big mitts off of, and besides, it’s something we can share and anyway the series is no worse than Midsummer on the teevee, and I watch them mostly without complaint. Or 3.

    Lastly, I have let my wife read the next one first, and then I get it, and if I don’t like it better than the last few, it’s going to be my very last one. Or 3.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! I’ve never read Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger,” but it is indeed hard to top the devil as a new person (new demon?) in town. Reminds me of the novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” and the short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster” — both with satanic characters.

      Wow — that’s an impressive dive you’ve taken into the MC Beaton canon! Not surprising that an author repeats things and jumps the shark when a series goes on that long.

      A thoroughly enjoyable-to-read-comment, with its droll moments!

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      • MC Beaton, who writes pretty well, has made me appreciate the achievements of Lee Child, who writes better, and aims higher, and has managed somehow to create a more consistent character and series altogether, while never knowing where his plots are going from day to day, as he makes things up as he goes along.

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        • I agree, jhNY. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is at 20-plus rather than 30-plus books, but I’m also impressed with how good almost all the installments have been since 1997 as the series is now in its third decade. Some repeating of themes, but with variations, and Child has avoided any shark jumping as far as I can remember. Along the way, Reacher has grown more mature and reflective as he gets older. And it is indeed impressive that (from what I’ve heard) Child doesn’t even do an outline before starting his books — as you say, he makes it up as he goes along.

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    • jhNY, you’ve made want to revisit the Hamish MacBeth mysteries, once I get moved into my new home. I had read one, but then the 2nd one I couldn’t finish — not sure why, but perhaps it was just a mood I was in at the time. I’m quite impressed with the way you’ve read almost the entire series, though I think I’ve said before that I’ve read the entire Agatha Christie oeuvre, many of them twice. I’ve read a few of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin books that were quite enjoyable. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation, even if she did end up jumping the shark later in the series.

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      • I’ve been reading the Hamish books like others eat potato chips, one after another in rapid succession, and so , I can’t identify just where the first shark-jumping took place, but it involved drugs and our hero taking a trip overseas. But then the series seemed to pick up a bit, only to head over the shark again– my theory is that the more the author is determined to stay relevant re drug crimes, the more hard to believe her plotlines and characters. To put it plan, she doesn’t seem to know what she’s on about, but keeps at it regardless.

        Also, somewhere after the second dozen in the series, Beaton seems to have lost much of her drive or something, and to write the Hamish books out of obligation or remaining momentum or a combination of the two, so that she tells, rather than shows, and forces events, rather than allow them to unfold realistically. I suspect the success of Agatha Raisin, and the attendant pressures to produce more Raisins, may have a lot to do with it.

        Having said all this, I still recommend the series as a sort of BBC- teevee-level entertainment in print. It’s a fun way to spend time in a book, or in my case, several, and you even learn a little about the places and mores of Highland Scotland!

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        • Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind, but I do like reading about the Scottish Highlands, as well as Edinburgh. Bill and I would like to take a trip to Edinburgh and experience the Tatoo, along with other places in Scotland! It sounds like it would be a lot of fun, though it might be a bit difficult with my mobility issues.

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  3. Dave, off topic which I have a tendency to do :). I just finished the memoir about a couple who move to the Canadian Rockies and live in a log cabin that they built themselves. This one was written by the wife (“At Home in the Woods”), and I just started the one by the husband to get their different perspective on doing so (“We Like it Wild”). I was talking to my best friend last night, and she said, “You do realize that that you’re not moving to the wilderness, but into a gated community in the Poconos.” Ha! I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by people who do that, but I am. Of course they were much younger than I’m now, but someone can dream about it — right?

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    • Interesting, Kat Lib — two memoirs from a different perspective from the same couple! And, yes, there’s wilderness and then there’s WILDERNESS. Still, the land I saw in the photo you showed me of the view from your new house has an undeveloped look.

      Loved the droll quote and your enjoyable response in the second half of your comment!

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      • Somewhere around here I’ve got a book about early (white) settlers of Tennessee, land of my youth (who must, pace Margaret Dumont, be a big boy by now).

        There is within a description of an environmental madness that sometimes affected those in the deep woods that once covered much of the state, which caused a sort of overwhelmed and aimless wandering– sometimes, after weeks, clothes shredded, covered in burrs and sticks and filthy, hair long and matted, sufferers would emerge from the trees and into a settlement, totally incoherent and lost in mind, so vast and trackless were the old woods in our new country.

        My pet theory re the prevalence of “Bigfoot” stories out of the past: see above.

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        • Hmm…the scenarios you describe certainly evoke “Bigfoot” stories.

          I happened to have recently read Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” about a girl lost in the woods who ALMOST lost her mind.

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      • Dave, I had to change my ringtone the other day, because the one I had was too sad/mellow — the opening of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” — and I was missing a lot of phone calls because I couldn’t hear it. So just yesterday I changed it to the opening instrumental bars of the Queen/David Bowie song “Under Pressure,” which definitely describes how I feel right about now coming up on my two settlements!

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          • I’ve got the entire Live Aid concert on DVD, both in London and in Philly (1985), and I must say that out of all the acts that performed, the best two were Queen and David Bowie, so it’s fitting that I have the ringtone for “Under Pressure.” I actually watched the whole thing on TV as it happened (16 Hours I think!). It was what got me so interested in Bowie, so that I ended up collecting all his albums, the CDs, and 4 or so DVDs of videos and concerts.

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            • I’ve only seen excerpts from that concert, Kat Lib, but what a lineup! (Also including U2, among others.) The peak decade for Bowie and Queen was probably the 1970s, but they were still going strong in the ’80s.

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  4. I’ve got a bit of a twist to throw at you for this – novels where YOU feel like the new person in town. I say that because the novel “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir” centers around a small town in England in the opening days of World War II. You get the story from various persons in that town (all women). It made me feel like I was new in town and getting to know everybody! It’s such a good book if you have the time. I also feel the need to bring up one of my favorite books (because I bring it up whenever I can) – Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bingley’s arrival in town is the whole driving point of the book. And who doesn’t love cheerful Mr. Bingley? (And I am so sorry about your mother. Sending prayers to you and your family)

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    • “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” was also a little bit like being introduced to a town during WWII. And your comment reminded me of JK Rowling’s terrific “The Casual Vacancy”. There are so many characters in that book that every time I was introduced to one, I felt like I had to write their name on a list so that I’d remember it the next time we met!

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      • Thank you, M.B.! I like that twist a LOT! There are indeed novels that make the reader feel like she or he is a new person in town. One novel that sort of does that for me is Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Cranford.” And almost any novel by the wonderful/underrated Fannie Flagg. “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir” is now on my to-read list!

        And, yes, “Pride and Prejudice” — a book that can be relevant to so many themed literature posts. 🙂

        Last but not least, I greatly appreciate the condolences. Thank you.

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        • Sue, I’m also a big fan of “The Casual Vacancy.” Many “Harry Potter” fans apparently dislike or have mixed feelings about that depressing novel, but I think it’s a mature and compelling book.

          I would like to read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”!

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      • Dave and all, I loved “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and of course most people here know how much I love any work by Jane Austen (e.g., “Pride and Prejudice”). I must mention her at least once or twice a month. Dave, I think you said it best when you said that there’s always a column that Austen has something to say about it!

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        • With the exception of a blog post about ultra-violent thriller books. 🙂 But, then again, I bet Jane Austen could have written a great ultra-violent thriller if she lived in a different place and time. “Mayhem Park” or something…

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          • Ha, Dave! Well, I know who I’d have knocked off first in “Mayhem Park,” Aunt Norris, but I’m a very non-violent and pacifist person so …
            However, I must say that I cringe every time I see the book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” that I find not funny at all, but who knows? Austen had a rather wicked sense of humor!

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            • Yes, Aunt Norris is ULTRA-annoying, though (as you know, Kat Lib) she does get points for inspiring the name of a cat in the “Harry Potter” books… 🙂

              I’ve never read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” but the whole idea sounds exploitative and dumb. And, yes, Jane Austen had a fabulous sense of humor in her novels — though her views on zombies remain unknown…

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  5. “The arrival of a rich neighbor is an important event in the lives of country people. The landed proprietors and the people of their households talk about it for two months beforehand and for three years afterwards”. Pushkin – The Shot.
    Your blogpost made me think of Pushkin and this funny quote. In Pushkin’s work there’s often a stranger arriving in town, most notably Eugene Onegin, who moves to his late uncle’s estate from Saint Petersburg. His arrival causes quite a stir.
    It’s also a popular theme with Turgenev: Fathers and Sons, Home of the Gentry, Asya, Torrents of Spring, etc.
    Thanks for another inspiring post Dave, and sorry to hear your mother has passed away.

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    • Thank you, Elisabeth! That droll quote from “The Shot” would have been a great way to start my blog post. 🙂 Pushkin and Turgenev are such excellent writers; I’m sure you’ve read everything or almost everything by each!

      And thank you very much for the condolences; I greatly appreciate them.

      (Sorry I didn’t respond sooner; for some reason I didn’t receive email notifications for several comments yesterday.)

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        • Three terrific favorites to have, Elisabeth! I guess if I had to choose, Dostoyevsky would be the 19th-century Russian author I’m most partial to, but Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Turgenev are amazing as well. (I’ve read much more Tolstoy than the other two, so far.)

          Speaking of Amsterdam, a long/great novel that I read a couple years ago is partly set there: Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.”

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          • Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed The Goldfinch too. The original painting is in the excellent Mauritshuis in The Hague, together with another painting that inspired a novel: The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer. If you ever visit the Netherlands that’s definitely worth seeing. I was there a few weeks ago. Interestingly enough, the real story is also remarkable: Carel Fabritius (a student of Rembrandt) was painting in his studio in Delft, when a nearby munition storage exploded. The explosion killed him and only a few of his paintings survived. If you look closely at The Goldfinch, you can see tiny dents from the debris that was flying around.

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            • Thanks, Elisabeth! Two great novels inspired by great paintings! I also enjoyed the non-painting-themed “Remarkable Creatures” by “Girl with a Pearl Earring” author Tracy Chevalier, as well as Donna Tartt’s first two novels.

              As you allude to, so much renowned art in The Netherlands — a country I’ve unfortunately only visited once, and that was many years ago. (I’ve passed through Amsterdam’s airport a couple of other times since then to make connections.)

              That true explosion story you compellingly described is stranger than fiction, yet has inspired fiction…

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              • Yes, Donna Tartt’s novel starts with an explosion too. I haven’t read any of her other work, nor any Tracy Chevalier, but, I trust your opinion, so I’ll be looking out for them!

                We do have a number of excellent museums here in the NL. My most recent favourite paintings are “Marten and Oopjen”, a pair of portraits by Rembrandt that our Rijksmuseum bought together with the Paris Louvre. They could also inspire an exciting novel! And they’re new in town 😄

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                • “The Goldfinch” is definitely the best of Donna Tartt’s three (one every decade or so) ambitious novels. I think it’s an A++ next to the perhaps A- of “The Little Friend” and “The Secret History.” Chevalier’s “Remarkable Creatures” is based on a real female 19th-century, little-educated, working-class dinosaur fossil “hunter” whose work surpasses that of highly educated white males in that line of study.

                  The exhibit of those two Rembrandt paintings sounds incredible! “They could also inspire an exciting novel! And they’re new in town.” True! And funnily put. 🙂

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            • That little painting also graces the cover of the earliest group of translations of Osip Mandelstam poetry I ever owned– the one by Merwin and Brown, Oxford U Press, 1973.

              Fascinating detail re the debris visible in paint!

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    • elisabethm: Your quote “The arrival of a rich neighbor is an important event in the lives of country people.” This could apply so well to “Pride and Prejudice” mentioned before me and you about Mr. Bingley moving to the small village of Longbourn.

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  6. Hi Dave..
    First story that came to mind was actually a play but I saw the film. called “Picnic.” Play by William Inge. As described in a film review, ” Emotions are ignited amongst the complacent townsfolk when a handsome drifter arrives in a small Kansas community on the morning of the Labor Day picnic.”

    The film stars William Holden, wayward, looking for work and to re-connect with a fraternity friend who is well to do. Relationships soon turn self destructive. The new person in a small town particularly can be looked at with suspect easily, disrupting the ebb and flow of what can be a mundane, structured life. Its like the cowboy riding into town, changes the dynamic, quickly, of the characters, plot, etc..

    Good to see Joyce Caro Oates listed. “Solstice” is filled with suspense, a page turner in shorter form than some of her other novels, similar length to “Black Water” which tells a story with similarities to Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick.

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    • Thank you, Michele! I remember you recommending Joyce Carol Oates, and I just revised my first comment way below to acknowledge that! Sorry I didn’t do so earlier. “Solstice” is quite an intense short novel.

      I once saw a performance of the play “Picnic,” and it is indeed a work that fits this topic exactly! Thanks for mentioning it and skillfully describing it (including the film version)!

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  7. I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but it fits this category and is one of my favorites: Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. The family move from Georgia to the Belgian Congo was a drastic culture shock. They packed so many things that were useless once they got there. And after living there for a time, they had to go through another major adjustment when they returned to the states. Wonderful to have you back on the blogging scene, Dave. – Molly

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    • I’ll second that Shallow Reflections, because that is one of my favorite novels, and the culture shock the family endured was palpable. Which I’m sure what most Americans would feel moving to Africa — something I dream of, but don’t have the courage to do!

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      • Thank you, Shallow Reflections! Glad to be back. 🙂 “The Poisonwood Bible” is a GREAT example of a “new family in town.” (The awful missionary father in that novel was certainly not welcome in Africa.) And, yes, Kat Lib, there was that major culture shock that Barbara Kingsolver depicted masterfully.

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        • Dave, were you off for a while? A couple of times I checked to see what your were writing about and could not find you, but I assumed it was due to my somewhat discombombulated state (love that “oldie but goodie” adjective, expresses perfectly how I felt!).

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          • You weren’t imagining it, Clairdelune — I did miss posting a blog for two weeks. My mother died on April 22, so I was dealing with that — mostly in Florida, where she lived. I flew back this past Saturday.

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            • So sorry to hear about your mother, it’s always difficult when a parent dies, even if the children are of advanced age or well into adulthood. My father died when I was only 9, and for me, for various reasons, it was the emotional equivalent of a planet-wide earthquake. For an adult, there are all the post-funeral details to deal with, it’s understandable if you will be busy for awhile.

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              • Thank you very much for the kind condolences, Clairdelune. I greatly appreciate it. I had a “complicated” (euphemism alert!) relationship with my mother, but nonetheless feel very sad about her death. And, yes, those endless post-funeral details… 😦

                Losing a parent at age 9, as you did, IS an emotional earthquake. So sorry that happened.

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  8. Dave, I’ll mention another Liane Moriarty novel, “The Last Anniversary.” Sophie is told by her ex-boyfriend, Thomas Doughty, that his recently deceased Aunt Connie has left her house on Scribbly Gum island to Sophie, even though she had only met Aunt Connie two times before. She heads to the island to claim her inheritance, partly because of her fascination with the Munro Baby mystery that happened years ago on the island, of which the Doughty clan has made a cottage industry from, including a yearly anniversary of the events surrounding the mystery.

    From Jane Austen, there are multiple examples: Bingley and Darcy arriving at Netherfield Park near Longbourn; the Dashwood sisters moving to Devonshire and meeting Willoughby and Colonel Brandon; Frank Churchill coming to the fictional town of Highbury and flirting with Emma while secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax; and of course, Henry and Mary Crawford moving into the parsonage at Mansfield Park and causing all sorts of problems for the protagonists.

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    • Thank you, Kat Lib! I’ve read four Liane Moriarty novels (she’s SUCH a great writer) but haven’t gotten to “The Last Anniversary” yet. From your excellent description, it sounds like that book has a great premise.

      And those are terrific “new person in town” examples from Jane Austen!

      Hope your move preparations are going as well as possible.

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      • Dave, all I can say is that my move is progressing to the point where there’s only one thing that they have requested that we (or the seller) haven’t provided them with. I got my mortgage from them to buy my current house, have had my checking account with them for the last 4 iterations and have a personal line of credit; yet they are acting like they know nothing about me except what they find on-line. Once I settle, Bill is going to write them a blistering letter about their interactions with me.

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        • Very sorry about those unnecessary problems, Kat Lib. One sometimes wonders whether ANY business or entity is totally competent and focused when dealing with their customers. 😦

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          • Yes, my lender must have been thinking about their 1 billion dollar settlement for auto and home loans, so I guess I’m paying for that!

            Dave, you were very much missed while you took some deserved time off, very understandably so, and I hope you are doing OK.

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            • I know what bank you mean. They’re the worst of the worst — which is saying something. And totally innocent consumers indeed have to pay (directly or indirectly) part of the tab for the wrongdoing of corrupt corporations.

              Thank you, Kat Lib, for the words in your second paragraph! I also greatly missed the blog and everyone who contributes to it. I’m doing okay — much was accomplished the past two weeks (the funeral, getting death certificates, throwing out or donating stuff in my late mother’s Florida condo, finding assets, hiring a lawyer, canceling credit cards, cutting off her landline phone, returning medical-alert devices, etc., etc.). But much remains to be done with her small but convoluted estate. For instance, in a couple of hours I’ll be opening a bank account for the trust she wanted — which I’ll use to pay overdue bills and so on. Back to Florida in late June to do more things.

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              • Dave, having been the executor for my mother’s estate, I can relate to how difficult the whole thing can be. I was going to give you a play-by-play of what I went through, but fortunately I remembered a sign in the hospital elevator, that read “Do not visit a patient and describe your own operation.” Very wise words!

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                • Thanks, Kat Lib! Yes, dealing with an estate is a trial even in the best of circumstances — and my mother complicated things quite a bit by changing her 1999 will and trust less than 18 months ago. It helps that there’s an elder-law attorney giving some advice. And you’re right that each situation has differences among the similarities.

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                • Boy, do I admire the wisdom contained in the message on that hospital sign, and boy, do I aspire to live by it, however short of the mark I might sometimes be!

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    • Now I want to read “The Last Anniversary” ! I have been an avid reader of mystery novels for decades, and this one sounds very intriguing. I have never read anything by Liane Moriarty, but I will look for this book.

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  9. Great topic, and many exciting reading ideas here! I haven’t read any Grisham for a while–maybe I should.

    I just screened a fabulous and rather daring production of Uncle Vanya for my classes (distributed in the US by Stage Russia; some of their titles are available for individual viewing on iTunes if you’re interested), which made me think of how Chekhov’s main plays seem to have an aspect of a new person in town, or rather, the return of an old acquaintance after a long absence, which shakes up dull provincial life.

    Another set of notable stories on that topic from the classic Russian canon are Gogol’s Inspector General and Dead Souls. Perhaps in this day and age we all need to be reading our Gogol a little more closely?

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    • Thank you, Elena! Ah — Gogol! His “Dead Souls” protagonist definitely gets around to new places as he does his odd counting work.

      It’s been a while since I read Chekhov (I was riveted by two short-story collections back to back about five years ago), but I remember “new person in town” elements. Somehow I have yet to read or see his plays.

      John Grisham is definitely a page-turning author. Not that literary, but he can really tell a story!

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  10. Well as a John Buchan fan, I’ve got to mention The Thirty-Nine Steps in which Richard Hannay has recently arrived in London. “I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it.” His frustration with London life means he seizes the opportunity for adventure when it arrives on his doorstep.

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    • Thank you, whatcathyreadnext! That book and the excerpt you cited fit this theme perfectly! As we might have discussed before, I’ve never read the novel but love the great Hitchcock movie version.

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      • Well, I like the Hitchcock version as well but he did take some liberties with the story, notably introducing more female characters. Although, in a speech after the London premiere of the film in 1935, JB was generous enough to say it ‘improved upon the novel’ and his son observed his father was ‘thoroughly amused’ by Hitchcock’s transformation.

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        • Interesting. I wasn’t aware of that! As you know, a problem with MANY movie versions of novels is the liberties that are taken when things get adapted for the screen. Once in a while those liberties improve on the book, but it’s usually the opposite. Even when the author is gracious about it. 🙂

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    • Read the book as a boy, years before I saw the movie, and so, was only somewhat aware of the divergences of movie from book.

      But my wife and I watch the movie every year, as it is our favorite– perhaps it is not surprising I have never been tempted reread the book.

      My father-in-law had a brush with fame that is relevant: as a young soldier in Britain before D-Day, he was kissed by Madelaine Carroll while on a train trip. Quite the morale booster!

      Also, if you like the pre-war thriller as genre, I hope you have read “A Coffin for Dimitrios” by Eric Ambler. If you have not, I recommend it highly!

      Liked by 2 people

      • jhNY, that was a memorable moment for your father-in-law!

        “The 39 Steps” IS a great Hitchcock movie. Unlike you and your wife, I’ve only seen it once — years ago. But I can still picture various scenes.

        Like

    • Thank you, Becky! “Stepford Wives” has become a generic catchphrase/description, but I guess it all started with that novel. Unfortunately, I’ve never read the book or seen the movie versions. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello Dave and all other “literati” on this page. Have been absent for awhile, spent some time in hospitals, but am back at last!! I did keep up with your column, however, as much as I could between not-so-good days.
    The title of this column made me smile: offhand, the only “New in Town” character I could think of was Valentine from Heinlein’s novel “Stranger in a Strange Land”. I bought it it because the title struck a cord at that time, as I had recently become a stranger in a strange land having left behind my native country and was transplanted here as newlywed, wondering if I would ever blend into the landscape. 😀 However, I quickly realized that the being a stranger was the only thing I had in common with Valentine, as I could never identify with his escapades.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wonderful to hear from you again, Clairdelune! And your comment was eloquent as always. Sorry you had to spend some time in hospitals. I hope you’re feeling at least somewhat better now? I also hope your freelance work is going okay, if you’re still doing that.

      Excellent mention of “Stranger in a Strange Land”! The very title fits this week’s theme to a T.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, Dave – am back to normal, at least what is normal for my advancing age — today is my …third birthday… 🙂 — that is, if I wake up in the morning it’s a very good day 😀
        And yes, I resumed the translation work. Exercise for the brain, for which I’m getting paid – a double benefit!
        I recall reading (when I still had time to read every day!) several novels by Graham Greene where t either a stranger comes in town, or the main character goes to a faraway place – the mention of The Poisonwood Bible reminded me of “A Burnt-Out Case” in which a famous, burnt-out architect decides to go to the Congo to work in a hospital for leprosy patients, a rather heroic undertaking, but ultimately he finds spiritual healing in his work with the lepers.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Glad things are not going too badly for you health-wise, Clairdelune. And it’s great that you’re still translating. Doing freelance work definitely keeps the brain exercised in a positive way — unless the workload gets too crazy, of course.

          I haven’t read much Graham Greene, but his “The Power and the Glory” novel I think had its priest protagonist visiting new places. (It’s been a while since I read it.)

          “A Burnt-Out Case” sounds like quite a work!

          Liked by 1 person

    • Clairdelune, I’m so happy that for now your medical problems are under control. In such a kind and caring blog such as Dave has engendered here, I do start to worry if I haven’t seen or heard from someone posting a comment for a while. I also relate to “Stranger in a Strange Land,” I’ve moved over 20 times since college, but not from another country, which must be very difficult. I am now off in less than two weeks to my new adventure living in a home with a view to a lake, spillway and creek in the Pocono Mountains. Can’t wait!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kat Lib, thanks for your kind words!! What a wonderful new adventure for you, life with a view to a lake , spillway and creek I have a painting hanging in my bedroom (by the younger me in my “artsy period”, when I had time to indulge myself), with a similar view in front of a small house in the woods… always dreamed of ending my days in a place like that, but alas, I have only the painting to gaze at every evening.
        Please post a picture!! I will enjoy your view vicariously. A great way to be a stranger in a strange land.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Dave,

    What a great topic! The character that immediately came to mind was Walter Moody. In Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries”, Walter relocates to New Zealand to make his fortune on the goldfields. Of course, most people have moved there to make their fortunes, but there’s already so much mystery and intrigue, that Walter is definitely the new kid on the block.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue! And that’s a terrific example from a terrific novel (that I read on your recommendation — perhaps three years ago)! Wish I had remembered to mention Walter Moody in this piece. 🙂

      Jack London also had “new person in town” and “new dog in town” characters arriving at another Gold Rush site — the Yukon in the 1890s.

      Like

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