by Chris McDuffie
It is not only the new books in our library which are interesting. I signed out The Red Dory by Hazel Wilson recently because I knew its author had spent a lot of time in her family’s cottage next to ours in Beach Cove, the one now owned by her grand nephew Greg Brown. Hazel Wilson published about 20 books, mostly for young readers, and The Red Dory was her first, published in 1939. It presents the summer adventures of a boy, Donald, living with his grandparents on Long Island.
In this book Wilson changed the name of Long Island to Pine Island, but there is no doubt as to the real location when she talks of Harbor de Grace where Donald lives, catching a lobster thief off the Stepping Stones, and taking summer people fishing off Outer Green Island.
Pasted in the back of the library’s copy there is a note from Hazel Wilson to a Mrs. Hewey which says, “The old captain in the book is partly modelled after Captain Ben Woodbury, whom I knew as a child. None of the happenings are really true, but his character was kind and dignified as I made Captain Eben in my book.”
The “happenings” (like the day a swordfish takes Donald and his red dory for a “Nantucket sleigh ride”) are things she may have made up to appeal to her young readers, but the book is so rich in details about the lean circumstances of a fishing family on Long Island in the 1930s that I think anyone who loves Long Island, as Hazel Wilson did, will find this a fascinating read.
There’s another Hazel Wilson book at the library, Island Summer, and again it is set on Pine Island (Long Island to those of us in the know). That’s going to be my next read.