Ann (Andy) Rutherfurd Austin’s novel “The Bar Harbor Formation” transports readers to summers spent in Bar Harbor decades ago. Katie Bowman Morse, the novel’s protagonist, lives a privileged childhood during the last years of Bar Harbor’s gilded age and throughout the novel faces the challenges of a changing world. Join Austin for an author talk and book signing at the Jesup Memorial Library on Wednesday, August 7 at 7 p.m.
The book begins with Katie as a fifteen-year-old, who has been trained for a world of Emily Post, dinner parties, and marriage as a career. However, that way of life is quickly vanishing. As the book progresses, Katie has to find her footing at a time of massive cultural shifts: the Viet Nam War, the civil rights movement, hippies, feminists, and, perhaps most difficult of all, the relaxation of the norms her family held dear.
Austin, herself, spent childhood grandmother’s house on Eden Street. Her grandparent’s family had owned Bar Harbor “cottages” since the late 1800s and in mid-twentieth century Austin’s two siblings and six cousins led an idyllic life at Burnmouth. Burnmouth survived the 1947 fire, as did the cousins’ summer fun. The ruins of magnificent mansions all around provided new adventures. Austin recalls she and her friends investigating the skeletons of burned out estates, helping themselves to various souvenirs. Old-fashioned telephones and claw-footed bathtubs began disappearing from the likes of the once grand Stotesbury Mansion. For the teenagers there were also sailing, swimming, tennis and climbing mountains; at night dances at the Bar Harbor Club, the Seal Harbor Club and the Kimball House in Northeast Harbor. However, in the 1970s, what was once called “The Summer Colony” was waning and Burnmouth was torn down in 1979. Now the Bayview Hotel overlooks the grounds where the children chased each other with garden hoses, rolled down the sloping lawn like huge sausages, and turned the rocks on the beach below into an imaginary town.
“The Bar Harbor Formation” is a novel based both on a childhood, and on the less happy but more complicated years that followed. However, Austin writes that the book is not a memoir, the characters are not portrayals of real people; the accounts of wild parties, adulteries and accidents are only loosely based on reality. Nevertheless, anyone who has ever been in love, either with a person or with a childhood house, will enjoy this very romantic book.
Rutherford’s grandmother’s was Mrs. Morris McCormick and before she was divorced, Mrs. Robert Hall McCormick. Her father was Sargent F. Collier and her mother was Eleanor Morris McCormick, and her late sister was the author Eleanor Dwight, who wrote about Edith Wharton and Diana Vreeland among others. Rutherford graduated from Vassar College and spent 44-year career as a freelance courtroom sketch artist for ABC’s national news bureau and its Chicago affiliate, WLS-TV.
Books will be on sale that night courtesy of Sherman’s Books. For more information, contact the Jesup at 207-288-4245.