After the American Revolution, Elijah Merrick takes his place among the merchant sea-farers who now can trade in Europe without the constraints formerly imposed by His Majesty. Molly Deems, laboring under the cloud of her mother’s service to a Barnstable reprobate, knows that her future will be secure only through marriage to a man of humble beginnings and the ability to rise above them. This man is Elijah, who will make possible her own rise, whom she will betray, and who will throw all he has into Sweet Charity in an effort to regain what the War of 1812 has cost.
Molly and Elijah Merrick present their own visions of possibility in post-revolutionary New England. Skillful, cunning, and caring in their often conflicting ways, the couple builds, loses, and struggles to regain fortune, trust, and love. The narrative language faithfully evokes the emerging maritime Cape Cod society. Professor Bruce Allen, author of Voices of Earth: Stories of People, Place, and Nature and “Literature of Nature: An International Sourcebook.”
“Hill creates a lush, vibrant landscape in post-Revolutionary Cape Cod with historical details that blend seamlessly with the narrative. What compels the reader to turn the page, however, is Molly’s uncompromising will to not only survive but thrive in the midst of her persecution and the country’s upheaval. Though the narrative may drag for some who prefer a faster read, others will enjoy Hill’s slowed pace that allows for full immersion in American maritime history. Seaworthy historical fiction at its best.”
“important and worthwhile”
—Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, author of The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen
“Hill has captured the essence of the era”
—Marie Sherman, author of Say, ‘I Do!’ Wedding Tales of a Cape Cod Justice of the Peace
“convincing as well as enjoyable”
—James H. Ellis, author of A Ruinous and Unhappy War
“an absorbing book”
—Marion T. Clark, Baltimore News American
As a boy, Kingsley Merrick is taunted by his social betters at the Academy. As a young man, he is ostracized by the establishment of Waterford, a small Cape Cod village, home of deep water captains. When he makes a fortune in Australia by running Concord Coaches to the gold fields, Kingsley returns to Waterford, seeking retribution for the humiliations he has endured. Part of his plan includes marriage to his cousin.
Julia Merrick is imprisoned by her middle-class upbringing, and looks to Brahmin Boston for relief. Gradually insinuating herself into Beacon Hill society, her dream founders on the shoals of snobbery, and her virgin purity is besmirched by an alluring scion of wealthójust as her family is threatened with financial ruin in the panic of 1857. Julia can save them all by marrying Kingsley, on his way home from Australia, but at what a price! There will be no escape from what she now knows about men, and she also knows the marital relation will break her spirit.
As indeed it does, until she brings her husband to heel with a scheme that will free her to create an elite, Brahmin-like society right there in Waterford and at the same time keep him out of her bedroom.
“I married into this family,” Deborah Hill says. “The ancestors did interesting things, and since they aren’t my own, I could turn their story into historical fiction with a lot more freedom than anyone related to them could do.”
After completing This is the House, 35 years ago, the author turned to the next ancestor of interest who, in fact, did make a fortune in Australia and tried again in South Africa, with the diamond strike there. Now releasing a new edition, Hill again realizes a dream come true with this, the second of the Kingsland Series.
The Heir Emily Merrick, enjoying the new-found freedom of the Roaring 20’s, discovers that liberation can come at a high price. But it is her son, Steven, who will pay it. Raised under the crushing heel of the man Emily tricks into marrying her, young Steven endures the malicious control of his step-father by escaping to his memories of Kingsland, the Merrick estate in Waterford, on Cape Cod Bay. Its steadfast presence sustains him, as well as his love of the sea, as he endures the constant humiliations devised by his mother’s husband. Instead of entering Harvard, as he is supposed to do, Steven flees to Kingsland and lives there while he learns a trade in defiance of his pretentious step-father. He finds the simple life of the countryman a relief after the constricting pretentions with which he’s grown up. Eventually he saves enough money to enter the college of his choice, graduating just in time to join the corporate culture of the 50’s. By then he has inherited Kingsland, and when promotion passes him by, he again flees to Waterford, this time with his family. There he confronts the challenge of earning a living in so remote a place, and in the process of piecing together the possibilities meets Jenny Lawrence, an ancient lumber schooner that has been converted into a Windjammer. She cruises Nantucket Sound, carrying passengers to the picturesque ports of Martha’s Vineyard and to Nantucket itself, and from her, Steven will learn the wisdom of the tides and the wind. She will teach him that there is an alternative to his generation’s frantic post-war climb to the top, and she will carry him to the first woman – the only woman – he has ever loved, a woman through whom he will learn about the shame of his legacy, and a way to restore its honor.
At the age of 75, Elijah Cobb wrote this memoir for his grandchildren. In it, he describes his “avenchures,” telling of his captures and escapes as he dodges the English and the French who close each other’s ports, hoping to starve one another into submission. The confiscation of his ship and cargo by the French, his meeting with Robespierre (whose name he cannot spell), smuggling, creating alternative trade routes, beating the Embargo of 1807, being captured by the British as the War of 1812 opens—these are recounted with wry humor and a certain flair.
Deborah Hill uses these recollections as the point of departure for her epic novel, This is the House. Cobb’s writing lends historical and personal authenticity to her fictional captain, Elijah Merrick, whose wife ìran him in debt for a Cape Cod farm’ just as Cobb’s did.
125 years after Cobb left an account of his career, Hill wrote the first edition of her novel. She was living on Cape Cod at the time, and had access to ancient town and church records and, of course, the first edition of Cobb’s recollections. “It was too great an opportunity to pass up, with the bi-centennial of the Revolution coming along,” she tells us. “Now, with the bi-centennial of the War of 1812 starting this year, it seems like a good time to issue second editions of both.”
Deborah Hill wrote This is the House while living on Cape Cod. “It was a story I could never have created without using the memoir of my husband’s mariner ancestor,” says Hill. She has been working on revisions, researching post-revolutionary history, and aligning her novel with facts more easily obtained than they were 35 years ago. “Writing a second edition is an author’s dream come true,” Hill comments. “There’s always more that can be done.” Originally published in 1975, This is the House sold over 700,000 copies. Now it is available to a later generation of readers, as well as helping to set the stage for the Bi-Centennial celebration of the Second War with England.