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Bright and Distant Shores

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  762 ratings  ·  124 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
Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Atria Books (first published March 2011)
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May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB
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
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 –
Mar 31, 2011 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Teresa Lukey
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sharon Huether
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Bright and Distant Shores By Dominic Smith An Insurance Company in Chicago built a skscraper of a building. The Ceo sent his son and his sons friend on an excursion on a sailing ship that would take them to the Pacific Islands and back to Chicago to bring back artifacts to be displayed on the top floors of the insurance building. The sons friend Owen went along too. The author through the characters,showed trust, courage, love and morality which made this story very interesting.
Lesley Moseley
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written, and interesting.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
My last book review of 2019! This was the second fairly massive book I read in December – although it was only about half the size of A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. This is a slow-moving, heavily detailed novel that takes place in 1890’s Chicago. Owen Graves has been asked by insurance magnate Hale Gray to undertake a shipping expedition to the South Seas to retrieve native artifacts and even a few natives to be used as an exhibition to draw customers into his new skyscraper. I love ...more
Newt Taylor
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 stars because there is no 3.5. While Smith is unquestionably a master storyteller, Bright and Distant Shores seemed a bit long winded, and the conclusion inconclusive.
Oct 02, 2019 added it
Shelves: could-not-finish
Can’t get into this after 50 pages. So it’s now in did not finish group.
"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
Pam Tickner
I have loved Smith's other books but found this hard going - the content was fascinating, but it was very long winded and just too much background story. ...more
Susan Hirtz
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Chris Waterford
Jan 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was looking forward to this after reading "The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos" by this author. (5 stars). However this book didn't seem to be written by the same author---none of the same light touch. It was the story of an 1890's trip around the Pacific Islands, picking up artefacts along the way (including natives) to take back to an Exhibition in Chicago---600 pages of slow moving, turgid action. ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
3 stars out of 5 - I read a library softbound over the past couple of weeks. There are parts of it that sparkle, and parts of it that are too long winded. I wanted to like it more because it touched on many subjects that interest me, but in the end I found getting through it more of a struggle than a pleasure.
Mar 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Dougal P
A narrative that combines a well-imagined view of Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century while drawing on the vanishing world of ocean sailing at this time. The action alternates from Chicago to the Pacific and some of the island communities of the peoples of Polynesia and Melanesia. Ten out of ten for the depictions of life on board a 'sailing steamer' /steamer sailing ship with its larger than life captain and its idiosyncratic crew who roam Pacific islands in search of local curios to ' ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book’s follows two men, and the people who surround them on a tour of American colonialism. One is a man from Chicago, Owen graves, who is trying to make his fortune by trading for native artifacts in the pacific. The second man, Argus, is Melanesian, but harbors dreams of becoming a preacher after working for a Scottish missionary. The brutality and ugliness of Eugenics and colonialism are on full display in this novel. Rape is addressed several times, and Dominic Smith artfully shows that ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. Set in Chicago and the South Sea islands, it tells the story of how Owen sails to the islands to procure artifacts for an insurance company run by Hale Gray, but the twist is native people are also to be brought back to be exhibited. Owen must keep the true nature of the trip from his fiancee Adelaide, and must also stop the other sailors from killing the insurance king's heir; the hapless Jethro.
They eventually do meet some natives but not what Hale is expecting. Argus
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Julie Cohen
Jul 14, 2017 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! ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Once you get past the gambling part and into the bargaining for relics part it's quite gripping and well written. While the story focuses on the Caucasian couple, the Melanesian brother and sister are more interesting, and their story is left hanging. But then it's obvious that being a woman or a person of color was more difficult at the turn of the century (and still is, usually). ...more
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Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, a New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Dominic's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, Texas Monthly, The Australian, and The New York Times. He has received literature fellowships from th ...more

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