Zenosbooks

Country Place by Ann Petry. Boston. 1947. Houghton Mifflin. 266 pages. Cover: Paul Sample.

 

country place houghton mifflin 1947FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

With all the compassionate insight into human beings for which she is noted, Ann Petry exposes the hypocrisies of a tranquil New England town in this dramatic story of a war veteran who searches to find out whether his wife has been unfaithful. ‘Gossip, malice, infidelity, murder. . . are some of the dominant matters treated in Country Place.’ - New York Times. African American novelist Ann Petry drew on her personal experiences of the New England Hurricane of 1938 in her 1947 novel, COUNTRY PLACE. Although the novel is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Petry identified the 1938 storm as the source for the storm that is at the center of her narrative of gossip, malice, infidelity and murder amongst whites in a small town in America that reveals the ‘hidden evil and menace under the bland, innocent externals of a town's life. . . A dramatic story about a group of New Englanders whose commonplace exterior covers many tensions. We see the small, sleepy town through the eyes of the local druggist, an elderly, kindly man who owns the respect and confidence of his neighbors. The action takes place during a hurricane, and as the storm progresses the novel unfolds the violence beneath the surface of the storm, a violence composed of ordinary characters in all too ordinary situations.’ (Laura Z. Hobson). Second novel by the author of THE STREET.

 

The Signet paperback edition:

 

 signet country place s1426

 

 

 

 

 

Petry Ann Ann Petry was an African American author. Ann Lane was born as the younger of the two daughters to Peter and Bertha Clark in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her parents belonged to the Black minority of the small town. Her father was a pharmacist and her mother was a shop owner, chiropodist, and hairdresser. The family belonged to the middle-class, and never had to suffer any financial struggles similar to those of many Harlem inhabitants. The Lane girls were raised sheltered from most of the disadvantages other black people in the United States had to experience due to the color of their skin. Only once did Ann experience racial discrimination when she went to school two years early at the age of 4 with her older sister Helen. On their way home, the two sisters were attacked by some white juveniles with stones. After the girls’ uncles took care of this by threatening the wrongdoers the Lane girls were never bothered again. The strong family bonding was a big support for Ann’s self-esteem. Her well-traveled uncles, who had many stories to tell their nieces when coming home, her ambitious father who overcame racial obstacles when opening his pharmacy in the small town as well as her mother and aunts, set a great example to Ann and Helen to become strong themselves. Petry interviewed by the Washington Post in 1992 says about her tough female family members that ‘it never occurred to them that there were things they couldn’t do because they were women. ’ The wish to become a professional writer was raised in Ann for the first time in high school when her English teacher read her essay to the class commenting on it with the words: ‘I honestly believe that you could be a writer if you wanted to. ’ However, Petry decided on a rather stable education and followed the family tradition after finishing high school. She enrolled in college and graduated with a Ph. G. degree from Connecticut College of Pharmacy in New Haven in 1931 and worked in the family business for several years. On February 24, 1938 she married George D. Petry of New Iberia, Louisiana. This new commitment brought Petry to New York and eventually back to writing. She did not only write articles for newspapers like Amsterdam News, or People’s Voice, and published short stories in the Crisis, but was also engaged at an elementary school in Harlem. It was during this period of her life that she had realized and personally experienced what the black population of the United States had to go through in their everyday life. Traversing the littered streets of Harlem, living for the first time among large numbers of poor black people, seeing neglected children up close – Petry’s early years in New York inevitably made painful impressions on her. Deeply impacted by her Harlem experiences, Ann Petry was in the possession of the necessary creative writing skills to bring it to paper. Her daughter Liz explains to the Washington Post that ‘her way of dealing with the problem was to write this book, which maybe was something that people who had grown up in Harlem couldn’t do. ’ She wrote her most popular novel The Street in 1946 and won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. Back in Old Saybrook in 1947, the writer worked on Country Place, The Narrows, and some other stories but they have never achieved the same success as her first book. Until her death Petry lived in a representative 18th century house in her hometown, Old Saybrook. Ann Lane Petry died at the age of 88 on 28th April 1997. She was outlived by her only daughter, Liz Petry.

 

 

 

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