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Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  665 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
When Sam Bax, that charming daredevil of a Boston lawyer, sails his boat into a storm off the coast of Maine, Elizabeth "Olly" Bax, his wife and ardent sidekick, becomes a widow at the edge of twenty-seven.  With no pretense of "courage", Olly grieves, coping with the warmth and awkwardness of family ties and trying to rethink her own life.  Realizing that her risks are as ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 9th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published 1975)
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Suanne Laqueur
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tomorrow I'll be 48. I'm now as old as Laurie Colwin was when she died. She's a beautiful and sometimes infuriating writer. Her characters are complex, introspective to a fault, and often unlikable. Her prose is brilliant and sparse, and then it wanders off into a verbose swamp before coming back to clean, bracing brilliance. She must have driven her editor mad.

I love her. Not everyone does. But I do. And I'm grateful to have discovered her. In her own words:

"I felt something very close to grat
Mike Coleman
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
An elegant escape and a great beach book. I've always admired Laurie Colwin and the unique world she carved out in the novels she wrote in the 1970s and 80s before her death in 1992 at the age of 48, and this is one of her best. Writing about the romantic experiences of mostly happy, well-adjusted young New Yorkers, she's like Woody Allen without the neurosis. There is a warmth, a gentleness and gentility to her work, so unlike the many angry anti-Establishment novels from the same period. No wo ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it
If you are fond of tortured introspection and comlex relationshio dramas. you might like this book better than I did. For all her delving and explanations and classifications, it remained unclear to me just why the narrator felt the urges she resisted and indulged, and if I hadnt learned a thing or two from this book, I would have dismissed it as boring.

Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Laurie Colwin was a beautiful writer. Unfortunately she died very young and left us with only four novels and three collections of short stories. This novel is about love and grief. Olly Bax loses her young husband, Sam, in a boating accident. (Sam is the bright and dangerous object of the title.) The rest of the book is Olly's movement through grief and love. Colwin has beautiful, lyrical language and tremendous character development. Her writing is to be savored. There has been some criticism ...more
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We ordered a massive breakfast. There was a sheen on everything, on that cheap Formica table, on the dented cream pitcher, on those horsey locals in their muddy boots. I thought I would keep it with me forever, the faint whiff of horse the place exuded, the faded design on the plates.
As I looked at Charlie, looming up on his side of the table, I felt something close to gratitude, but it was only love and respect, mixed with something in me that he had freed and enlightened. If you can drink li
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When you read the story synopses of her novels, something about them seems very conventional. Love is either longed for or interrupted, and then something else happens that may be a solution for the longing or interruption. Also, the characters are usually people of privilege: money, education, New York address, culture, rarified occupations.

But, what the characters say to each other is surprising, and how they come to know themselves is full of struggle, mishaps, and insight. The worlds of this
William Baker
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
I don't want to make anyone upset but this is one of the most boring and repetitive books I have ever read. It seemed to go on and on about essentially the same thing for the first two sections then the third section is this long and protracted explanation and justification of an affair with a married man.

Someone said that this authors characters are complicated and introspective. And they are right, only this main character is so introspective and complicated that they spend most of their time
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just love her writing. It is always so beautiful and smooth. Even if you can't get behind the characters decisions, you still love them and care about what happens to them. I wasn't prepared for the serious nature of this particular book since most of her other writings I have come across feature almost no sad topics. It is good to know she can go there and still carry her appreciation for how wonderful life can be, even in the face of a tragic event.
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
Colwin died far too early, at age about 48. This is a lovely, lovely book of grief and re-building. There were so many paragraphs that were beautiful, and the way she led you to understand the characters and their relationship was achingly well-done.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-favs
This book is one of my all-time favorites. Was entranced with the story and Olly the main character is a flawed yet lovable character with a cool wit. Ms. Colwin writes such great character studies. I have purchased so many copies of this book and gifted them to friends. It is dated by now, but the emotional lives of these characters are relevant for comtemporary life. I believe I first read this book in the early eighties and still remember parts of it clearly, probably because I've reread it s ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
a 27 yr. old woman becomes a widow after 5 yrs of marriage. how she copes, how she lives life and learns to enjoy life is all at the hands of the author. The book is a fast read and one that makes u feel good -- not depressed -- the writer leaves one thinking! I've read other books by Laurie Colwin and haven't been disappointed yet.
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Weird and often moving story about a young woman pianist suddenly widowed in her 20s. Dated in the best way, when you could land in NYC and find a cheap, cozy one-bedroom apartment on Bank Street (overlooking a garden, of course), smoke cigarettes and be sort of slutty without even knowing it. A little warm and fuzzy, like a nice old blanket.
May 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
While I love her writing, I had a difficult time relating to Olly. I thought Part 1 was excellent but Part III seemed strange. How can cheating on the love of your life be such a wonderful choice? Maybe the book just made me uncomfortable, but I couldn't relate.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had forgotten how much I enjoy Colwins particular voice. Loved this story.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
A woman marries an intensely daring man who eventually dies risking a sail in a storm. This book tells of her widowhood. I just couldn't understand any of the characters or empathize with the thoughts. The people seemed very removed from my feelings and experiences, so I couldn't feel a part of the story.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book, but found Part III odd. The character development and study was almost philosophical. I was not aware that Laurie Colwin had died so young. This is the first book of hers I read and will definitely look into others.
Ariella Amshalem
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Although I did not love this as much as "Happy all the time", I was still impressed with the author's ability to craft such a fully-realized main character. Olly's journey through love, loss, and through to the other side, is original and enjoyable, if a little too elegant and tidy at times.
Terri Colangelo
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Rated 8 of 10
Barb Hockaday
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed Colwin’s writing style but I didn’t feel empathy for any of the characters and actually disliked many of them, including the main character. Maybe I missed the point.
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Holly by: Mimi
Wow! Originally written in 1975, this book is about a young widow. How she met her husband, their short time together, her time of dealing with grief, and how she adjusts and gets on with life -- possibly even to love again.

Can I give this book 6 stars? The book grabbed me from page 1 and took me into the fictional life of Elizabeth Olive Bax. Some of this book is very '70's, although the behavior and thoughts of the characters are still accurate. However, it is definitely from a pre-9/11 world
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this wonderful, perfect, life altering novel & author through sheer impulse; something for which I am not known and something I almost never apply to buying books. Books are far too important to me to be stuck with a bad one. I bought this because the title felt challenging, exciting and hopeful.

The book is so good that before I'd finished the first chapter, i stopped reading and did 2 things: first I got out a yellow highlighter (most page have at least one thing that felt
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mari Manning
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'd never heard of Laurie Colwin, but this title caught my attention. I am sucker for poetic titles. This book is only about 200 pages and was more character study/novella than a full novel. It is essentially a book about the grieving process. The story centers around a 27-year-old woman who loses her husband in an accident after five years, and how she deals with his death. I liked this book. It is not easy to make this topic, which was most an internal journey, interesting, but she did it. I a ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Hard to rate.

I read most of it, because it's Laurie Colwin, but it's one of her earlier works (1975, I think) and it's mostly a lot of narrative that doesn't really go anywhere. Young woman loses husband. Young woman reflects on relationship with said husband. Young woman falls in love with brother-in-law (husband's brother). Young woman goes to a conservatory for the summer and embarks on affair with a cellist even though she loves brother-in-law. Kind of lost me at that point.

Great title, som
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
this book was interesting. part one and two had some beautiful passages and made an interesting story, then came part three. the writing was still lovely, though dragging in spots, but the story line, i just didn't get it. she just sort of dropped it on you and there you were, trying to figure out how fast she could make such an odd decision. guess part one was "shine on", part two "bright and part three "dangerous" ? just don't get it, ending doesn't fit with first two parts. confused.
Sep 11, 2014 rated it liked it
i'm kind of in love with the title of this book - for some reason, it's super satisfying to 'get' a book title and feel like it's fitting. i'd mostly describe this as a page-turner, about a young widow as she gets past grief and begins her life anew. she's a bit emotionless for me to really identify with, yet the solid writing, the focus on patrick and her time at the conservatory make this an interesting read.
Melissa C
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a story about death and about love. It began with the death of Sam, a daredevil, who dies in a storm on a sailboat leaving his 27 year old wife a widow. The story goes on to take some surprising turns. Some of it was not totally believable, but it ends up all good. The author gave us some gorgeous observations about love, about people and relationships. My biggest criticism was that at times it felt redundant. In all it was a very sweet story and left me with lots to think about.
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this one because a Goodreads article on Anna Quindlen, "Good Minds Suggest," listed this as one of her five favorite love stories. It's a good but not great psychological study of a young woman whose dare-devil husband dies young. Anna Quindlen obviously found more to love here than I do. I'm glad I've read it, but I won't encourage you to put it at the top of your list.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
The blurb says that the wife became a widow at the age of 77, but that is wrong. The wife is widowed at 27. Big difference. Just an FYI. That's not why the book was just ok. I did like the last third of the book. It is a very short book (180 pages). Had it been a longer book, I probably whould have given up on it.
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Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time, Family Happiness, Goodbye Without Leaving, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.
“At a certain point, memory begins to be a burden.” 3 likes
“I put my lilies in front of Sam’s plaque. I didn’t want him to rest in peace. I wanted him to bounce around in death as he had in life, fearless, goofy, and fleet.” 0 likes
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