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Bright and Distant Shores

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  548 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos comes a sweeping historical novel set amid the skyscrapers of 1890s Chicago and the far-flung islands of the South Pacific.

In the waning years of the nineteenth century there was a hunger for tribal artifacts, spawning collecting voyages from museums and collectors around the globe. In 1897, one
ebook, 480 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Atria Books (first published March 2011)
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Rick F.
Aug 16, 2011 Rick F. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the award-winning author of The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre and The Beautiful Miscellaneous comes a sweeping historical novel set amid the skyscrapers of 1890s Chicago and the far-flung islands of the South Pacific.
In the waning years of the nineteenth century there was a hunger for tribal artifacts, spawning collecting voyages from museums and collectors around the globe. In 1897, one such collector, a Chicago insurance magnate, sponsors an expedition into the South Seas to commemora
May 04, 2011 Zinta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I met the author, Dominic Smith, in 2006 for an interview in Austin, Texas, to talk about his then newly published first novel, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre—I was working on an article for the alumni magazine of a Michigan liberal arts college—I have been enthralled with his work. Not a chance that I would miss any of his books. And by now, there are three.

Bright and Distant Shores is Smith’s third novel, and it will be available September 2011. I rocked on my heels in glee when m
I feel like I should have enjoyed this book more, there just was something about the characters that left me a touch cold. And the ending was just a bit too open to a sequel, which I'm annoyed by because I don't think the story is worth continuing. Not an awful read, just a little bit hollow.
Teresa Lukey
Bright and Distant Shores opens and closes in Chicago and sure to please any lover of that city. It is history, love and adventure all rolled up in to on lovely package that will not disappoint.

The story opens in the summer of 1897 at the opening of Chicago First Equitable, the world's tallest skyscraper at 28-stories. The owner of this skyscraper, Hale Gray would like to have a unique "show" on the rooftop in order to attract people to the building in order to sell more insurance policies. The
"Greed is good." Even though this famous phrase was first vocalized in a movie made in the 1980s, this phrase has dictated the American business model for generations. The only difference is that this greed that greases the wheels of the economy takes different forms as one progresses through history. At the turn of the century, greed took the form of height and artifacts. Dominic Smith's Bright and Distant Shores discusses at length the greed for each that gripped the country and specifically C ...more
Susan Hirtz
Oct 24, 2012 Susan Hirtz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, a balanced and interesting story, about the late 19th century, the down and dirty ways of a Chicago robber baron and his bigotry. Many cultural changes were taking place in America and its overseas contacts at this time after the adoption of Manifest Destiny as a national policy. (It had been been clearly stated as part of the Monroe doctrine in 1822).

According to Michael Lubragge:
"First used in 1845, the term Manifest Destiny conveyed the idea that the rightful destiny of the US included
Dec 04, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the late 1800’s, Dominic Smith’s third novel, Bright and Distant Shores follows a Heart of Darkness template. It is the kind of historical fiction that takes men out of their natural elements, puts them in worlds where they should never be and then adds a crisis.

Following a vogue of the time a Chicago insurance kingpin Hale Gray finances an expedition to the South Seas to gather up an array of Melanesian artifacts with which to decorate his new skyscraper. Seems the perfect collection to
I discovered this author because Bright and Distant Shores been short-listed for the 2011 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – and I shall certainly be chasing up Smith previous novels down at the library. He’s a wonderful story-teller, combining a rollicking style, an intriguing love story and food for thought about the impact of collectors on indigenous societies during the 18th century Enlightenment.

Owen Graves is a most interesting hero. Bright and Distant Shores is a many-layered quest – f
Dec 08, 2011 Parismaddy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith ensnared me and captivated my full attention from the very first chapter. It sets a brisk pace in an atmospheric nineteenth century period setting.

Young Owen Graves loves treasure hunting, remnants of people passed, bits of metal fixtures, all thrill him. His Chicago-based building-wrecker father's demolition sites further develop this love and provide fertile hunting grounds for the young lad. Unfortunately, early in the book Owen sees his father crush
Carla Ford
Nov 06, 2011 Carla Ford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this novel! It is filled with history, drama, love and friendship, and is so well written that it's easy to just fall into the world of Owen and Adelaide. Set in Chicago in the 1890's, the novel takes us on a ship journey to foreign lands in search of artifacts as Owen is hired by an insurance magnate, Hale Gray, to undertake the voyage on his behalf. There are a couple of surprise developments before the voyage even begins, the details of the cargo present a dilemma, and Gray's son is t ...more
May 30, 2014 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bright and Distant Shores definitely falls into the category of heavier historical fiction. Smith's writing is beautiful and does such a fantastic job of fleshing out late 19th century Chicago and the wilds of the South Pacific, that his characters actually play a distant second fiddle. I was completely captivated by Smith's poetic, all-encompassing writing and scene setting that I barely remember the plot - only that it involved the unlikely romance of an independent and wealthy woman and the b ...more
Naomi Blackburn
Sep 08, 2011 Naomi Blackburn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can see why this book was named on Kirkus' Top Fiction of 2011. It deserved it. I loved the characters in this book and, to boot, the unusual exoticness of setting was beautifully written (I can't go into this because I would need to wander into Spoilerland). This book sucked me in almost immediately because I thought it was going to be one thing and it went in a seperate direction. Although, I found myself really enjoying the character's, I don't think it was necessarily for who they were but ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Gene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the 1890's, this ia a fine work of historical fiction about the development of private museums in Chicago and the impact of missionaries and artfact traders on the lives of people in the southern Pacific Isles. Set in Chicago, it describes the city's culture and class system through the eyes of a working- class seaman, a wealthy progressive woman who volunteers at Hull House, and a Pacific islander who was educated by a Scottish missionary. Great characters and a lively plot move this alo ...more
Mar 16, 2016 Deanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't for me. I just couldn't get into the story. I didn't grab me from the get go and I tried to stick it out even after 100 pages in but I ended up putting it down and grabbed a different book.
Julie Marr
Jul 14, 2017 Julie Marr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
It's never a good sign when I don't feel like picking up a book at bedtime. This was an ok tale, but certainly not engrossing, and a good example of why sometimes it's just not worth exploring an author's back catalogue when you have enjoyed a more recent title. Glad it's done - nothing to write home about!
Nov 17, 2016 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost a swash-buckler, almost a travelogue, but with one foot in industrial boom Chicago making it also a portrait of that city in a time when the western world's fascination with the "primitive" cultures of the far hemispheres raised uncomfortable ethical questions for a well-rounded and engaging cast of characters.
May 25, 2017 Tanya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the storyline of two separate lives slowly drawing closer to eachother as each individuals journey crosses paths. Jethro and Owen are an unlikely pair, yet at sea bonds between these two men are formed.
Rather disappointed by this novel after reading the wonderful "The Last painting of Sara De Vos". I found this to be a rather long-winded and turgid read.
Mar 07, 2017 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Loved the setting(s) and the history. Character development felt a tad distant to me. I was reading along happily and turned a page and suddenly the book was over.
Feb 12, 2012 Northwestreader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Bright and Distant Shores is a period piece that is set in the waning years of the 1800’s. It is clearly based on extensive research on multitudes of diverse topics. If it weren’t for the story line, the book could be a sociological and anthropological treatise. It is resplendent with details of life at that time—from the street scenes of Chicago to the introduction of skyscrapers to the technology involved in the ice block industry to the commonly held view of peoples of the equatorial islands
Jan 01, 2017 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s 1897.  Owen Graves is the son of a poor Chicago working man, but he has a passion for scraps of the past - artifacts.  
Hale Gray is the wealthy insurance baron and collector of rare objects.  He desperately wants to outdo Marshall Field and his museum of artifacts and collectibles.  So Gray contracts Owen to sail to faraway Pacific Islands. Mission: collect a boatload of goods. But there are two conditions.  1.) Owen must take along Jethro, the prim, spoiled son of Mr. Graves.  And 2.) he
Oct 14, 2011 Marvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This novel has the elements that most appeal to me: a historical context (the end of the 19th century); a keen sense of place (Chicago and the South Pacific); an engaging story line; and, best of all, a thoroughly fascinating cast of characters. Those characters are worth itemizing (though not exhaustively): the hero, Owen, the orphaned son of a demolition worker in Chicago who's drawn to ocean adventure; his formidable fiance, the heir to a modest New England fortune who works as a secretary at ...more
good saga of pre wwi 1899's usa set in chicago and south sea isalnds/"Melanesia" in which a rich insurance co owner wants to one-up the new field museum in getting better,,cooler, more grisly "artifacts" and even bring some islanders to live in a display on top of his new "tallest in the world" skyscraper. so he sends up and coming orphan owen to trade mirrors and trinkets for blades, shrunken heads etc
meanwhile, argus, and orphan islander raised up by a scottish missionary is set loose after h
Oct 02, 2011 Klgrissom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
probably closer to 3.5

I did like this book. It is not my normal genre' but I was very interested in the characters of the book from the very beginning. I had to finish the book as soon as I met Argus to see what he was able to do in this life and where life would take him. I also really liked his sister and Owen. I thought Jethro was well written, although I really didn't like his character (but I feel it was intended to be that way). Dominic Smith did an awesome job bringing the characters to l
Aug 20, 2016 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know nothing about Dominic Smith, but I can attest to the fact that he's one of the most thorough and relentless researchers ever to Google for a 19th-century department store catalog. Every paragraph of "Bright and Distant Shores" is rich with period detail, and reading the book is like walking through a perfectly restored historical house. If historical ephemera fascinate you, it's a riveting experience. However, if you find the mannequins in period costume posed to simulate day-to-day life ...more
Sabrina Laitinen
Nov 28, 2011 Sabrina Laitinen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was sent this novel from Simon and Schuster. It is a wonderful novel set in Chicago in the late 1800's. A real estate and insurance mogul hires a young explorer named Owen to travel to far flung places in search of artifacts for his newly opened sky scraper. Owen takes along the mogul's son, Jethro, who is interested in botany. They travel to distant islands in the South pacific island area, and encounter primitive live at that time. Through a chance meeting, they come in contact with a native ...more
Sep 21, 2011 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is set in the late 1890s, just before the turn of the century, and spans from the skyscrapers of Chicago to the seas of the South Pacific. The characters themselves are just as sweeping as the landscapes, including an insurance magnate and his odd son, a house-wrecker from the wrong side of town, a museum secretary who comes from "old money," an eccentric ship captain, a siblings from Melanesia, one who is a converted Christian after serving as a butler for a Presbyterian minister and m ...more
Jill Robertson
Oct 28, 2016 Jill Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, adventure
'Bright and Distant Shores' by Dominic Smith was a beautifully told epic - and I mean epic. At over 500 pages, the story unfolds slowly and in so much meticulous detail. It's definitely not a book for rushing through. There are two parallel stories, beginning in 1897 Chicago. Wealthy insurance magnate Hale Gray has just built the tallest skyscraper in the city and plans to stage an exhibit of 'natives' on the rooftop. He commissions trader Owen Graves to sail to the far-flung islands of the Paci ...more
Sep 11, 2013 Mona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
i found myself going from feeling resentful that this book was nearly 500 pages long in a genre not my favorite to liking it so much I wanted to keep reading when it was well past bedtime. Towards the last hundred pages or so I kept wondering how the author would end the book and came up with quite a few guesses. Only one, in a very short narrative less than a page long, actually appeared in the story. I was disappointed in the ending. Quite. Two characters were unsettled and the others were lef ...more
Nov 25, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most satisfying novels I've read in a long time. The story, which is set in the last years of the 19th century and is split between Chicago and the south Pacific, revolves around a trip to Melanesia to gather native artifacts for a museum. In addition to the weighty themes connected with Western exploitation/exploration and study of the south Pacific, the book also has a lot to say about manhood, fathers and their children (mostly fathers and sons), and the emotional meaning ...more
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Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Chicago Tribune.

Dominic is the author of four novels, most recently of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Bright and Distant Shores (a sel
More about Dominic Smith...

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