Apr 29, 2012

‘The Right-Hand Shore,’ by Christopher Tilghman

(NYTBR) ... Mason’s Retreat has been making its appearance in various forms in Tilghman’s fiction for the last 20-odd years. In his first book, the story collection “In a Father’s Place,” we see it as the “Big House,” feared by the son of a white farmworker in the 1960s, and later as the ancestral home — a place of “mildewed stillness that smelled of English linen and straw mats” — to which an aspiring novelist brings his villainous new girlfriend for a summer weekend. From story to story, novel to novel, Tilghman’s readers have become familiar with this Chesapeake plantation, with its summer kitchen and its smokehouse, its box bushes and its oyster-shell paths and stands of loblolly pines, its big views of tidal waters. We have grown accustomed to the scowling 17th-century portrait of “Cousin Oswald” that hangs on the wall of the yellow stucco manor house and have heard the same family names of the neighboring gentry, farm laborers and watermen who have inhabited this peninsula for generations. Continued