Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Compass Rose” as Want to Read:
Compass Rose
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Compass Rose

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  273 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
A Providence Journal Best Book of the Year
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year

John Casey follows up his National Book Award-winning novel Spartina with an extraordinary return to the marshes of Rhode Island’s South County.

Elsie Buttrick, the prodigal daughter of Sawtooth Point, has just given birth to Rose, the child conceived during her passionate affair with Dick Pierc
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Compass Rose, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Compass Rose

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
James Murphy
May 25, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
Duology. I had to fish for it. I had to cast out in more than one direction to finally reel in the mysterious term for two linked novels. Compass Rose links with John Casey's earlier novel Spartina, concerning itself with the same characters and a few additions, mainly Rose, the graceful center of the novel. Casey's great strength, as with Spartina and equally evident here, is elegant descriptive prose and strong characterizations.

Spartina was Dick Pierce's story, how he built his own fishing b
switterbug (Betsey)
In rugged South County, off the coast of Rhode Island, the rustic beauty of the salt marshes, creeks, rivers, and ocean provides the substance and domain of Casey's follow-up/sequel to his 1989 National Book Award winner, Spartina. This book begins roughly where the other left off, circa 1989, and then segues to fourteen years later midway through the novel. It is the story of love and family, and the vicissitudes of six or less degrees of separation.

Middle-aged Dick had an affair with nubile El
Jun 29, 2012 Mr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally! A sequel to SPARTINA, the 1989 National Book Award winner. It usually takes John Casey about 10 years between new novels, and we had to wait 20 years for this sequel—but every sentence is expertly crafted, every element carefully thought-out and brilliantly executed without flash or dazzle.

COMPASS ROSE (perfect title!) makes me think of the feminist T-shirt saying: A Woman Needs A Man Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle. Rose, the teenaged drama queen, is the center of this small fishing commun
John Sherman
John Casey is one of those writers who creates prose that sinks into your subconscious. When I read his writing, I almost forget that I'm reading at all. An hour with one of his books can feel like five minutes. That said, I didn't love the story of Compass Rose. I wasn't entirely sure it was worth revisiting the world that Casey created in Spartina, Casey's masterwork in my opinion. It seemed like he wrote Compass Rose more for himself, as if he simply wanted to spend time with some of the char ...more
Jane Brant
Too much nature and not enough nurture....sums up one of the main characters Elsie, a single mother of Rose who is the "compass" for much of what happens in the book. Disappointed mostly with the ending...what is the result of Jack's episode; where does Rose end up....just seems to abruptly stop with little "closure".
Janet Eshenroder
Nov 27, 2013 Janet Eshenroder rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book off the bargain table (when will I ever learn?). From the jacket, it seemed the author had been well reviewed for previous books and the theme of the book certainly looked promising. Other books with higher priority (book club, loaned books) pushed this one aside for quite a while. I finally had time to pick it up and put it my read list.

The book starts off with seven characters in the first two paragraphs. None are explained or described until later on. Even the first senten
Oct 02, 2016 Leslie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't care for this at all. Didn't love the writing, couldn't get engaged with the characters, wasn't that much of a plot. Finished it to see if maybe there would be a lovely "aha" moment, but alas, there wasn't.
Jan 10, 2012 Adrienne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adrienne by: Book Club
Shelves: book-club
Essentially, this book is about a small Rhode Island community. It revolves around young Rose - from her birth to about 16 years - and the relationships between the three families that "raise" her. The most shocking thing about this novel was that it was written by a man, because the main characters are women (Rose, Elsie, May, and Mary), and their relationships are written in a totally believable way.
I never really got into this book, mostly because I didn't really relate or like any of the cha
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
I read Spartina years ago, so did not necessarily remember much of the plot or characters. I do remember that I thought highly of the book. Maybe it was me, but t seemed as if this follow-up novel began in media res, assuming we knew at least a bit about the situations at hand, so it took me awhile to settle in. I found the domestic dramas involved to be compelling, but by the last third of the novel, felt a bit weary of the ruts everyone seemed to be in.

Rose, the daughter of Elsie and Dick, a
Dec 11, 2010 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compass Rose is a novel about a small town in Rhode Island and centers around Rose. Rose is the daughter of Elsie, a free-spirited ranger, and Dick, a married and well respected local fisherman. Both are deeply entrenched in South County with ties binding them tightly on all sides. When Dick's wife unexpectedly decides to make Rose a part of her life, Rose quickly becomes the darling of their circle and the center around which everyone orbits.

Compass Rose is a quiet, contemplative character stud
Joshua Finnell
Library Journal Review:

This is the highly anticipated second book in a projected trilogy that opened with Spartina , a National Book Award winner in 1989. Whereas Spartina unfurls the complicated life of Dick Pierce and the events leading up to his infidelity, this novel’s protagonist is Elsie, with whom Dick had an affair. As the mother of Dick’s child, Elsie finds herself navigating her own life through the spaces of Dick’s wife, May; Dick’s sons, Jack and Charlie; and Dick and Elsie’s child,
Jul 10, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A followup to Spartina, 20 more years, about, in the lives of the small community in South County Rhode Island next to Sawtooth Point, which is now developed into a club and marina for yachts, right next to Dick and May's property--he is still fishing for whatever he can bring in, with his hand-bult boat, Spartina. But this is the women's story, May's, and Elsie's, and Mary's, and Rose's, the women who orbit around Dick. May reconciles herself to the fact that Dick is Rose's daughter by Elsie, a ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Feb 08, 2011 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mar-apr-2011
The New York Times Book Review described Spartina as "possibly the best American novel since The Old Man and the Sea." Casey's sequel, as a result, has a lot to live up to. Whereas Spartina focuses on Dick, Compass Rose centers on Rose and the women who influence her. His depictions of coastal Rhode Island are still wonderfully evocative, as are his observant renderings of small town life and extended family relationships. Only the San Francisco Chronicle felt the multiple protagonists resulted ...more
Readers who are drawn to characters will enjoy this book. If you are a plot reader, this one will drive you batty.

This is the second book to examine the lives of a small town in New Hampshire--the first, Spartina won the National Book award (and I did not read and was still able to pick up the back story well enough in Compass Rose). Apparently, Spartina is the story of Dick Pierce the fisherman and father of Rose. I enjoyed this book well enough to know I will pick up Spartina in the future. C
Apr 11, 2011 Mam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book disappoints in many ways. Wrtiten by a National Book Award winning author and meant to be a sequel to the prize winner, at a 20 year remove, the novel fails to deliver a credible story line. The author has several interesitng characters, including a single mother who is also a park ranger, a rugged fisherman, father to the child of the ranger, and the fisherman's wife and other two sons. Throw in a real estate developer, greedy for the other's properties an aged patrician school princi ...more
Garlan ✌
I finally finished this sequel to "Spartina". I found it to be too rambling and disjointed to enjoy it a great deal. There were just too many characters' POVs that detracted from the overall story. Spartina was much more of a "spare" read to me; told mainly from Dick and Elsie's POVs, with a lot more descriptive passages of the upper East Coast area. There was also much more of a sense of anticipation and apprehension in the first novel.
If you haven't read John Casey before, I do not recommend s
As a huge fan of Casey's "Spartina," I had eagerly awaited this book, which continues the story about some families living by and from the ocean in a small community in South County, RI. Both books have interesting characters, but Spartina had a big storm and a traumatic romance to propel the story, while the conflicts in Compass Rose are more psychological and slow-moving. Casey paints the setting beautifully and is certainly a master of describing the most subtle of human emotions, but toward ...more
Feb 19, 2012 April rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
This is going to be a short review.

Nothing happens in this book. There is no real plot. No beginning, no ending. I'm not even entirely sure there's a conflict, given how everyone is so taken in with ROse and peacefully co-existing. You never find out what drew Dick and Elsie to each other, or why everyone just adores Rose. Hell, you don't even find out about what happens regarding the Pierces' house.

This is quite simply a random shot of a community and there's nothing there for anyone to really
Andrea Stenn
Nov 29, 2010 Andrea Stenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elsie, a young woman who marches to her own drummer, lives in a small Rhode Island community on Long Island Sound. This story opens as she is beginning to deal with the complications of having a baby whose father is a married fisherman, living very near. How Elsie and those close to her interact and, some senses, raise baby Rose makes for good reading. And as Rose grows, it is she who helps integrate the fragmented community.
Casey's writing is fine, especially when he describes the woods and mar
Jun 22, 2011 Alison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really loved the first book John Casey wrote, Spartina. However, it was very hard for me to finish this follow-up book (essentially a sequel to Spartina). I was very disappointed in it. The author had a hard time choosing a point of view and staying with it throughout the story, so no character fully develops. In the end the author tries to tie in a natural world theme but it is largely missing from the rest of the story. Because the characters never fully developed, it was hard to support any ...more
Georgia Hunter
I'm a big fan of John Casey's - LOVED Spartina and had high expectations of Compass Rose (which picks up with the same setting/protagonist from Spartina). I enjoyed the writing - Casey has such a nice, conversational tone - but I wasn't as thrilled with the storyline, and I questioned some of the intentions/actions of the characters here and there. I did, of course, enjoy the RI references, which were spot-on. All in all a good read - worth picking it up - but if you haven't read Spartina yet, I ...more
Feb 02, 2013 Madeleine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging and satisfying--John Casey does it again. He takes us through the lives of characters we can relate to, allowing us to reflect on our own during moments that are truly arresting for the reader (and sometimes the characters). Nature as a metaphor, ecosystem and reflection is beautiful and not artificially inserted. And, as several reviewers identified, his communication of the thoughts and feelings of women demonstrates his talent (and probably reveals some of his family of wife and 4 da ...more
Aug 31, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read, especially since I live in South County. Well written in terms of prose, descriptions, etc. A little disappointing in terms of actual storyline - I'm not sure a male author gets it all "right," telling the story from the perspective of various females. As a character, Rose is somewhat "flat" and a bit of a brat. Yes she's connected to the other characters, but I'm not sure I see her as this great unifying force, as advertised in the reviews.

All in all, though, a solid read.
Jan 06, 2012 Hollis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-author
While I loved re-reading Spartina, I didn't enjoy this one quite as much. It's a sequel (in the first story, it's about a man building a fishing boat, a love affair and resulting pregnancy) and tells the story of the the child who is born and the women in her life. I enjoyed the characters but didn't like that it skips through time too quickly to really get a feel for their lives at any one point in time. Language is still beautiful, but just not as satisfying an ending
Jul 04, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Rhode Island family story was good, but I have a feeling it will be forgettable. I was never completely taken by the character of Elsie. Then when the land/power struggle seemed to be coming to a showdown finale, the story trailed off without conclusion. Elsie, fogbound and confused in the pond, was a pretty little chapter, but unsatisfactory for an ending. Left me high and dry and wondering.
Julie Barrett
Apr 27, 2012 Julie Barrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
compass rose by john casey
Dick Pierce is now focusing on the women in his life: his wife May.
Elsie the woman who born their daughter Rose. She allows him to bring the baby to his house for hours during her life as Dick has two boys at home. Everybody loves Rose.
Land deals, ship being broadsided and sinking, and some sex scenes make this a really good read about family life and living on the island and making a living from the sea.
To me, it was obviously written by a man. I didn't think the female characters thought like females. I also needed more information about what motivated a few of the characters. The author hurdled over years and characters remained static. It addressed the question of shore development nicely but I think the battle was lost to developers long ago so the book isn't timely in that sense.
May 25, 2011 Shan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
I made a vow to return all library books on time this year. And then I broke it when I got started on this one late and just couldn't give it up when the due date came. Really excited to read Spartina and find out how the whole story begins. Great writing, and Casey is clearly one of those rare-ish male authors with a real gift for female characters.
Mar 01, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been eagerly anticipating this book since finishing "Spartina" a few months ago, and it didn't disappoint. In fact, this may be an even better book. How insightful Casey is about his characters and their motivations, and how well he understands women! I felt deeply immersed in the lives and interrelationships of these people and their small, vivid corner of the world. A wonderful book.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I enjoyed this book, I loved the many different characters. One reviewer said you should read Spartina before this one because of the multi-layered relationships and you would need the past history to understand them all. Casey wrote Spartina over 20 years ago - who would remember all of it anyway? I truly did not find myself confused at all. I enjoyed all the characters very much!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Driving on the Rim
  • Republic (America's Future, #1)
  • The Portable Coach: 28 Sure Fire Strategies For Business And Personal Success
  • Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Times
  • Dirty South
  • Lake Overturn
  • Miss Harper Can Do It
  • Dead Time (Alan Gregory, #16)
  • The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick
  • Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard
  • Chandler: Later Novels and Other Writings
  • Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories
  • The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier
  • The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
  • Red Water
  • Juno's Daughters: A Novel
  • The Border Lords (Charlie Hood # 4)
  • And She Was
John Casey is the author of six works of fiction, including Spartina, winner of the National Book Award, and, most recently, Compass Rose, as well as nonfiction and translations. Educated at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is a professor of English at the University of Virginia.
More about John Casey...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“It wasn't fair that men got the verbs and she ended up with adjectives. Jack plotted and squeezed and bulldozed. She was caught snooping—pathetic participle, half verb, half adjective.” 0 likes
More quotes…