The Glass Ocean: A Novel

The Glass Ocean: A Novel

by Lori Baker


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I write in retrospect, from the vantage of a distant shore.
Flame-haired, six-foot-two in stocking feet, eighteen-year-old Carlotta Dell’oro recounts the lives of her parents—solitary glassmaker Leopoldo Dell’oro and beautiful, unreachable Clotilde Girard—and discovers in their loves and losses, their omissions and obsessions, thecircumstances of her abandonment and the weight of her inheritance. Thomas Pynchon calls debut novelist Lori Baker “a storyteller with uncanny access to the Victorians, not only to the closely woven texture of their days but also to the dangerous nocturnal fires being attended to in their hearts.”

Carlotta’s story begins in 1841, when Leo and Clotilde meet aboard the Narcissus, on an expedition led by Clotilde’s magnanimous, adventuring father. Leo is commissioned to draw the creatures of the deep sea, but is bewitched instead by golden Clotilde, beginning a devotion that will prove inescapable. Clotilde meanwhile sees only her dear papa, but when he goes missing she is pushed to Leo, returning with him to the craggy English shores of Whitby, the place to which Leo vowed he would never return.

There they form an uneasy coexistence, lost to one another. The events of the Narcissus haunt them, leaving Clotilde grieving for her father, while Leo becomes possessed by the work of transforming his sea sketches into glass. But in finding his art he surrenders Clotilde, and the distance between the two is only magnified by the birth of baby Carlotta.

Years have passed, and Carlotta is now grown. A friend from the past comes to Whitby, and with his arrival sets into motion the Dell’oros’ inevitable disintegration. In hypnotic, inimitable prose Lori Baker’s The Glass Ocean transforms a story of family into something as otherworldly and mesmerizing as life beneath the sea itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143125662
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/29/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lori Baker is the author of three story collections, including Crazy Water: Six Fictions, which won the Mamdouha S. Bobst Literary Award for emerging writers. She has taught fiction writing, journalism, and composition at Brown University, Boston College, and Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Chicago Tribune
"Baker is gifted with a surreal, descriptive imagination, and her Victorian world is densely populated with the kind of objects you want to pick up and examine: kaleidoscopes, mechanical birds, glass eyes, hanging orchids. The novel is a cabinet of curiosities stuffed to the gills with fascinating things."

Publishers Weekly (starred):
"Baker's unforgettable tale is rich with nuance, buried passions, and Victorian oddities, offering passage into an extraordinary world."

Booklist (starred):
“[A] hauntingly beautiful debut... Gorgeously written and elegantly evocative, Baker’s prose brings the Dell’oros’ world to life and drives home the tragedy of their fruitless longings.”

Thomas Pynchon
"An adventure of dreamlike momentum and romantic intensity, brought alive by a storyteller with uncanny access to the Victorians, not only to the closely-woven texture of their days but also to the dangerous nocturnal fires being attended to in their hearts."

John Banville, author of The Sea
"The Glass Ocean is that rarest of things, a historical novel, or at least a novel set in history, that is also a work of art. Lori Baker is a captivating story-teller, and her prose has the flash and fire of molten glass."
“Carlotta, the hero of debut novelist Lori Baker's The Glass Ocean, was born to love-lorn seafarers whose story she learns slowly and achingly. As facts surface, the past haunts Carlotta, and with the dream-like atmosphere of the novel, the reader is haunted, too. But the setting and the rich characterization of Carlotta's artist father and beautiful mother propelled me through the pages; Baker has a gift for narrating in detail, and the intensity of the love story kept me sucked in.”

Largehearted Boy:
“An evocative and transporting debut novel, an impressive work of historical fiction.”

Harry Mathews, author of The Conversions
"The Glass Ocean is breathtakingly good – as though Jean Rhys had come back from the dead to outdo Wide Sargasso Sea. So completely satisfying (as well as satisfyingly disturbing) that at the end one doesn’t wish it would go on forever because the ending itself is so beautifully right. Hat, shirt, and shoes off to a wizard of fiction."

Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance
The Glass Ocean is a rare accomplishment, its fictional world so delicately and vividly wrought that the narrative takes on the force of an emergent secret history.  It is a haunting, beautiful novel, full of mysteries and illuminations.”



Customer Reviews

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The Glass Ocean 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too many words are just as bad as not enough. My goodness every thought in this book was a page long, it was like being stuck in mud. I disliked this book, should have been a short story not a novel. Way, way too many descriptive words for a single though. Author has a good use of vocabulary I appreciate that, but this book was not entertaining. Doesn't get off of the ground at all, rather boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved The Glass Ocean. I was drawn to it first by the musicality of the language, the play in her sentences and paragraphs. I also found that motifs and themes recurred in much the way that they do in a musical score. When Thomas Pynchon praises Baker for sharing "the dangerous nocturnal fires attended to in their hearts," he puts his finger on the pulse of the book -- the dreamlike internal worlds of these characters in the face of an external reality of abandonment, disappointment and the greyness of day to day life. The characters are obsessed with seeking what has been irrevocably lost, for making the inanimate come to life, for achieving the flawless surface, conjuring life through the making of art. The narrator's father, Leo, becomes transfixed by the idea of capturing in glass the most transitory sea creatures, and then entwines in them in minute form the initials of his ever-receding wife. He takes apart the mechanical toys given to his wife by his rival for her affections -- in order to put those mechanisms to use in a secret and magical glass work, through which he can perhaps suspend his love in a lifelike artifice. Art and life entwined, each a construction. The novel as a literary form is also an artifice. And Baker, like her character, has taken apart its construct and then has put it back together in a new way. There's a lovely reference to Italo Calvino in the fourth chapter's title - acknowledging a literary tradition of making through artifice a way to look more deeply into the human soul. It really is, as John Banville says, "a work of art."