Some of you may be familiar with the beginning of a poem by Rachel Field, “If once you have slept on an island, You’ll never be quite the same.” I recently read a book about this Maine woman writer, that allowed me learn more about Rachel Field’s life, including her life on her beloved Sutton Island. The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine by Robin Clifford Wood, dispelled my false notion of Rachel Field being a sweet little old lady in a rocking chair knitting. Obviously I knew nothing about her, but that must be my impression of some of these Maine women writers, especially those who wrote children’s books. The real Rachel Field (1894-1942) was a sophisticated cultured woman who actually spent more time in New York City and California than at her Maine island home. And sadly, although she was sweet, she didn’t live long enough to be old (and she didn’t appear to be little). Now when I see one of her books, or hear the familiar phrase, “If once you have slept on an island…” I will have a different picture in my head of Rachel Field.
Aside from the Maine woman writer aspect, which I always enjoy learning about, I liked this book for the dual story – the thread between Rachel and the author, with the island home of Rachel Field tying them together. What a treasure for Robin to live in the home of this author, to really absorb her history, and to be enchanted enough to feel the call to write her biography. Truly a labor of love. I liked reading Robin’s letters to Rachel – you can feel the emotion. And I enjoyed reading about Robin’s research and visiting sites related to Rachel.
Rachel Field is best known for the Newbery Award–winning Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. I finally read this book several years ago, and liked it so much that it made my top 10 books read in 2018. Several of her books were made into movies. She was quite prolific, writing novels, non-fiction, poetry, and drama.
For those of us who are not only lucky enough to be able to sleep on an island, but to live on an island, Rachel Field is worth a second look.