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From Pink Chimneys to The Havener Sisters

11/20/2015

An Appreciation of Ardeana Hamlin's Historical Fiction

by Elise Ozarowski

When Ardeana Hamlin’s Pink Chimneys was originally published in 1987, the writer did not realize her debut novel would become a classic. She “figured it would enjoy a year or two of popularity and fade gracefully away.”

Before writing Pink Chimneys, a tale of the infamous nineteenth-century Bangor brothel, Hamlin had never even considered publishing a novel. Her primary focus was  journalism. However, the Bingham, Maine native was always been interested in the state’s history, and this story set along the Penobscot River during the heyday of the city's lumbering boom intrigued her. Still, she was surprised that it has enjoyed far longer than the brief burst of popularity she first imagined. It was republished in 2007, twenty years after its original release, and it has has spawned two follow-up novels. In 2011, Abbott’s Reach was published and now in 2015 a third book in this series, The Havener Sisters, has arrived.

With the publication of The Havener Sisters comes an opportunity to step back and examine the themes that run through her complex and layered body of work. Her fiction is built upon the same skills that make her a successful journalist, though these elements work slightly differently in the context of a novel. Her smart yet subtle humor is reminiscent of Jane Austen, and her ability to create intimacy in the third person is reminiscent of Charlotte Brontë. While her writing conveys the time period and setting, there is something unapologetically modern about it, giving her work a quality that all writers strive for: timelessness.

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