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Bright and Distant Shores: A Novel

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  263 ratings  ·  83 reviews
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.

With critical praise lavished on his first two novels, Dominic Smith has become a celebrated and deeply revered storyteller. Bright and Distant Shore
ebook, 480 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Atria Books (first published March 2011)
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Rick F.
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
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
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
Carla Ford
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
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
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
Susan Hirtz
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Sabrina Laitinen
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

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
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
"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
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
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
This is a book with a fine line of censure running through its veneer, where you can take one step back and observe the mixed results of a sea voyage to bring back a couple of ‘savages’, plus weapons and artefacts, to ‘display’ on the roof of the tallest building in 1890’s Chicago: Chicago First Equitable. The voyage and the detail in Chicago is top-notch reading: rich with eye-popping, presumably accurate, vividly seething detail. The weather, the wildlife, the natives, the life at sea; the gro ...more
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
What a great adventure this is! Sea trips in old sailing ships, expeditions to collect artifacts, including native people, to put on display in Chicago, a clash of wealth and poverty, men of hubris and dedicated to lives of one-upmanship. This novel is filled with lovely (although not always loveable), quirky characters, wonderful prose, and a terrific story line. It's all the better for its glimpses of history, Chicago and the world on the brink of the 20th century. Occasionally, the writing wa ...more
In the late 1800’s, fascination with other cultures was at a high point. The Chicago Exposition had drawn huge crowds. Explorers returned home with tales of exotic lands and treasures for collectors and museums. Wanting to be a part of this, Hale Gray finances a voyage to the South Pacific. His goal is to bring back not only artifacts but actual natives who he can then put on display and outdo his Chicago rival, Marshall Field. Assembling a team that includes his weak son Jethro and explorer Owe ...more
In the late 1800's the world has developed a voracious appetite for tribal artifacts. Owen Graves, a salvage and demolition expert from Chicago’s east side, is hired by an insurance magnate to fill a contract for artifacts and people on a collecting journey through the islands of the south Pacific. Using outstanding narrative, Dominic Smith takes the reader from bustling 1890's Chicago to the islands of the south pacific. He artfully weaves together the stories of Graves with that of Argus Nui, ...more
Nov 08, 2011 Katelin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy time pieces
Recommended to Katelin by: Goodreads Giveaway
I really enjoyed reading this book. There is no doubt that Dominic Smith is an excellent descriptive writer, however, I did become slightly bored here and there. As much as I enjoyed reading this book, I cannot say that I loved it. I felt that the last chapter or two fell a little short. For such an elaborate attention to detail, the story behind all of the well written chapters seemed to be lacking just a bit. I lent the book to a co-worker who was really enthused about the book when she first ...more
I really loved this book! It truly lived up to it's title and took me to "Bright and Distant Shores". It is so different and full of adventure! Not only did I not know much about Chicago in the 1890's or the islands of the South Pacific, I couldn't imagine how those two locales could possibly be part of the same story. But, in a magical way Dominic Smith manages it and spins a great yarn of exploration in directions both upward and outward. From the worlds highest sky scrapers to the world's mos ...more
Rebecca F.

Never really building to the kind of climax I was craving or expecting, I would say this book mirrored its own storyline. Grandiose dreams of a one-of-a-kind exhibition of natives living primitively on the roof of a Victorian-era Chicago building fell kinda flat, just like the book. It also shifted gears a little too much, from ultra-historical social analysis to ultra-detailed sea-faring yarn (does anyone really relate to that much sailing knowledge!?!?) to sappy period romance. But most chara
Eileen Charbonneau
Bright and Distant Shores is told in a fulsome style that teems with both thoughtful substance and picturesque coarseness. Graves and Niu are the perfect guides to Chicago and the South Seas. Of his employer’s mentally unbalanced son, Graves speculates that he seems the kind who “spent his life walking out of rooms in the middle of arguments.” But it is Argus Niu who steals every scene he’s in, as he navigates between worlds and forges his own philosophy, trying to combine his new religion while ...more
At the end of the nineteenth century, Hale Gray, a Chicago insurance magnate, sponsors an expedition into the South Seas to seek out native weaponry and handicrafts, as well as several natives for a planned lavish museum. Drawn into this scheme, are Owen Graves, an itinerant trader hoping to make his own fortune and establish himself as worthy of the woman to whom he has recently proposed; Jethro Gray, the magnate’s son, a young man with visions of becoming a naturalist; and a native brother and ...more
I could not finish this book. I got about halfway through and was dragging through it so I passed it to my husband (he was looking for something to read). Now that it has been a week or so, I have no desire to pick it up again. I just wasn't hooked by the story and had no interest in what happened to anyone-with maybe the exception of Malini. Maritime stories just aren't my thing.
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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...
The Beautiful Miscellaneous The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel Exercept from 'A Concise Dictionary of Antipodean Saints' / The Projectionist (RAF Volume 4: Issue 4)

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