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The Right-Hand Shore

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  589 ratings  ·  129 reviews
A masterful novel that confronts the dilemmas of race, family, and forbidden love in the wake of America's Civil War

Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason's Retreat, Christopher Tilghman returns to the Mason family and the Chesapeake Bay in The Right-Hand Shore.

It is 1920, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary Bayly, the current owner o
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Opening this book is like falling into a time machine -- this place in space and history so beautifully rendered you'll feel disoriented getting back to 2012. Tilghman is a master writer, who spins a Shakesperean tale with effortless grace through deep booming themes and small moments of exquisite meaning. I am a fan.
Kat Warren
Mighty tasty.

Disguised as a generational saga, this book is a glorious examination of the sins of the father(s), the sons and the daughters; slavery and the Civil War; Maryland flora and fauna; Catholicism in Maryland; 19th-century education in the U.S.; dairy farming; interracial love; and, skimped but there, Black separatism. Enthralling read and, dare I say, unputdownable.
This week, for the first time in years, I've been knocked off my feet with the flu. After spending 24 hours in bed, I finally managed to prop my head up and start reading this book. I was thrilled that I'd brought it home from the library the day before the flu hit; the book sounded exactly like the type of book I enjoy (family saga from 1800's). If you have to be home, too sick to move from your bed, you might as well have a good book.

Wrong! I slogged through 252 pages, hoping that it would get
Jaime Boler
Bound to the Land

The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 368 pages; $27).

With The Right-Hand Shore, Christopher Tilghman gives us a quietly beautiful novel about a family, a place, and the ties that both bind and constrain them.

The title refers to Mason's Retreat, an estate on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Masons have been part of the land since the days after the Gunpowder Plot when their ancestor, the Emigrant, was exiled there. Like people, the land can be c
Jill Manske
Finished, but didn't finish. I have a 50-page rule. If a book fails to capture my attention in 50 pages, I usually give up on it. Life's too short to read bad books, especially when there are shelves filled with thousands of good, unread books. If there's a glimmer of promise within the first 50 pages, I'll give it another 50. But this book failed after the first 50. I have no idea how it ends, nor do I care. Just plain boring. Don't bother.
In a nutshell, this book is about chickens coming home to roost. Edward Mason comes to buy Mason's retreat from his distant (and dying) relative Miss Mary Bayly. His plans for the Retreat don't include much; his life mostly lies in England. But in the course of the day spent on the Retreat talking to Miss Mary and her farm manager, Mr. French, Edward learns the history of the place. It all begins with Mary's grandfather, the unlamented "Duke" selling his field slaves in 1857 to a man from Virgin ...more
• I am really glad I read this book – I really enjoyed it. I will admit that my least fav parts of the book were the first two chapters and the last chapter – but these chapters do connect the book to Mason’s Retreat which was a prior book yet it takes place after TRHS.
• One of the reasons that I enjoyed the book was because of its location/setting – MD Eastern Shore. When living in MD – did research on the early history and slavery of the state and visited the Eastern Shore and other related ar
This is a prequel to the author's earlier publish novel, Mason's Retreat. It's not necessary to have read that.

What I truly enjoy about Tilghman's writing is the ease with which his sentences flow in graceful, descriptive phrases. Some of it is almost poetic. He lives in Charlottesville, VA where he is the director of creative writing at UVA.

This is a multi-layered story that takes place on an estate/plantation on Chesapeake Bay dating back to Emancipation. It easily moves through several gener
Since I live on the "right-hand shore" -- in Queen Anne's County, Maryland (and even know a Mason family who owns a peach orchard), I expected that I would be prejudiced in favor of, or extremely critical of, this book. The story starts out before the Civil War and ends in 1920, covering three generation of a family, two of them minutely. The story is told in flashback by an employee to a possibly inheritor of the farm. While not really identifying closely with any character, I found my interest ...more
The themes of love, pride, and racism could have been more thoroughly explored by a better writer. It took at least 70 pages before I cared. But in the end I still wanted more from the events that unfolded. The author just isn't skilled enough to jump from past to present. It could be an effective way to tell the story but it was confusing in this case. Nor was the author skilled enough to pull off the nuanced ending. overall very disappointed I a book that tried to depict such a rich time in hi ...more
Catherine Woodman
The novel is set on Maryland's Eastern Shore, more specifically on a farm that's been in Tilghman's family since 1657 where he's been going since he was a child. It's a landscape to which he keeps returning– or perhaps can't escape– with this prequel to his 1996 book, 'Mason's Retreat'. I didn't realize that there was a personal connection to the house and the property when I read the first book, but it makes sense--the obsession with the land is something that the author and his characters shar ...more
It took me a long time to read this because it wasn't smooth flowing from chapter to chapter. Each chapter was usually about a different person on the Retreat. It was wonderfully written though. No wonder Christopher Tilghman is the Director of Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia. Excellent book if you don't mind the fact that you don't necessarily want to pick it up every time you sit down.
This pearl of a book tells the story of a pivotal place and time in American history. The characters, their stories and the landscape are memorable and rendered tenderly. The details of Chesapeake Bay living are just right. I went hunting for the prequel to this (actually a sequel) before I got many pages into the story. More, please! Tilghman writes beautifully:

"Of all the potential hardships of marriage, this slow, dispiriting tug-of-war between two people simply trying to be, yet being thwart
Ok, let me say that I started to read this book and thought "oh no, I made a mistake in buying this". That lasted until about page 10. Once there, I could not put this down. Beautifully written with haunting, unforgettable characters in a unique time and a relatively unknown place in American history, this is just an outstanding book. Highly recommended.
Christopher Tilghman, I presume from the Eastern Shore's Tilghman Island family, writes a beautifully descriptive story about life on his plantation, Mason's Retreat, on Kent Island right after the civil war. I really enjoyed the novel and the story, my only qualm with not giving it more stars was I thought it was way too long and could have benefited greatly from some more editing. As someone who doesn't write, at all, I feel really stupid saying this but I was bolstered by another review I rea ...more
A great story. Stayed up really late the last night, wanting to know what happened to Thomas and Beal.

Not five stars, because some parts were a little boring.

Having read Mason's Retreat first, I felt that Edward Mason was not worthy of hearing the story that Mr. French (one of my favorite characters-the others being Tabitha and Beal's parents), told. Also, the conceit of the book--that Mr. French is telling the story--doesn't always work since he could not have known about Mary's life in the con
A beautiful tale of the complicated relationships on a plantation before and after the abolishment of slavery. Very moving.
Linda Mccormick
It took me a long time to get into this book. The beginning chapters felt choppy, with jumps between characters. I knew the author had written another book about this family and wondered if perhaps I should have read that one first.

I persevered and was ultimately glad I did. Once he settled into the heart of the story, Tilghman's novel gained clarity and strength. The central characters came into focus and their trials became engrossing.

I've lived in Maryland for more than 20 years and had no
Disappointing after how much I enjoyed Mason's Retreat
Maryland's eastern shore was already a divided place as the Civil War had it's white citizen aligned with both the North and the South. This novel looks backward at the time between the end of the war and the turn of the century. Optimism and pessimism exist side-by-side as the decades evolve. Freed slaves anticipate a future that is not be full-filled. The writing is so descriptive that one can almost smell the peaches ripening in the sun. The author crafts a complex environment for both the ow ...more
This is a beautifully written historical novel which takes place in the region of the author's ancestors...Queen Anne County, on the Eastern Shore of MD....This was recommended by my local book group and it intrigued me as well because I live in Queen Anne county, MD, where much of the action of the novel takes place and I have a passion for black history and the complicated legacy that slavery has left a mark on black and white relationships...Tilghman pulls the reader into the personal and pol ...more
This book gives a feeling of place as much as it develops characters. Having gone to camp in St Michaels as a child and lived on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, author Tilghman, of the many Md Tilghman's has evoked the ruralland and water. We have a family story about a husband and wife from Pittsburgh who went to the Eastern Shore about the time this book was written. They spent their summer raising cantelopes, had a good crop and got them on the train for Baltimore, then the train bro ...more
I so wanted to like this book because of my personal connection with the region in which my parents lived for 20 years, but I found this book too easy to put down, very little about it compelled me to keep reading, so much so that I had to return it to the library or face fines (unfortunately was not able to renew). I read not even 100 pages in 2 weeks, and while I enjoyed the story, was interested in the characters, and am sorry to have left them, there was something in the lazy pace of the sto ...more
Although this book took a few chapters to get in to, by the middle, everything seemed so real and NOW that I forgot it was told as a series of flashbacks!

Beautifully told, history (late 1800's-early 1900's), race relations and economics are viewed through the lens of the Mason family in the northeast United States. There are too many memorable characters to name, both good and bad. There's enough heartache, triumph and drama to make you beleive the Masons are a real family, and live on a real f
This is a prequel to Tilghman's acclaimed Mason's Retreat, which I did not read. It tells the story of a doomed - cursed? Maryland plantation and the aristocratic Catholic family that owns it. In the beginning of the novel, we see the family patriarch sell his slaves south in anticipation of emancipation, hoping to make the best of a bad investment. Ophelia witnesses the sale and is haunted by it, growing to hate the land that in her mind was linked with such an outrage. She tries to rise her da ...more
Agnes Benis
This is a beautifully written sad book. It opens with Mary interviewing one of two candidates for her to leave the Mason estate upon her death. (She is dying) Edward Mason intends to use the farm as an investment and not live there as Mary would prefer. He does not tell her this outright and they spar back and forth. Mary is not enthralled with Edward, but makes the decision that he will inherit.

From this interview day, the story of the farm,the Eastern shore and its inhabitants unfolds. Mary's
This is an incredibly beautiful, sad, and wonderful book. It is a prequel to the book "Mason's Retreat" that he published 16 yrs. ago. This book traces the history of the Retreat starting at the point when in 1857, the owner of the property sells all of his slaves at "30 cents to the dollar," keeping only a few house slaves, because he knows that slavery is coming to an end. (Later his daughter in a spin worthy of any current politician says that he emancipated them!)

The story starts with a dis
A young man aspiring to inherit an estate from a dying old woman listens to stories, the history of that estate. It is told by the people who work there, over the course of a day. It doesn't induce the young man to foil his plans to stay in England and relocate, but that isn't the point. The history is engaging, the voice lively even though the story itself is melancholic. The Retreat is cursed, and nothing good can happen in it. Slavery is the root of this, and murder is at the heart.

I did not
This book was picked for a Book Club discussion so I began reading it. Then they decided that enough copies were not available so they dropped it and substituted another book. Since I had already started it, I continued to the end. I did not have the benefit of reading the first book that this author wrote, and maybe that would have made a difference, since this one was somehow related. I enjoyed the Eastern shore of MD, with which I am familiar, and the Baltimore landscape and schools, also fam ...more
When I was in high school, one of English teachers taught us about "flat" characters. The context was Dickens. The Right Hand Shore would have been a poor choice for such a lesson. The characters in this book are complex. They evolve throughout the book. The story intertwines the racial and class challenges in Maryland after the before the Civil War through the early 20th Century.

Tilghman has a gift for descriptive prose, though I felt he overused the talent in places. Some readers will be very
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Christopher Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place, and The Way People Run, and three novels, The Right-Hand Shore, Mason’s Retreat and Roads of the Heart. Currently the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia, he and his wife, the writer Caroline Preston, live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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