Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Week 2: State - New Hampshire

New Hampshire, the second state in New England on this trip, is renowned for being the first state to declare independence from Great Britain in January 1776, while its state motto "Live Free or Die" is famous throughout the United States and has lent itself to the names of two novels, three films and an episode of the Sopranos. Known as 'The Granite State' in reference to its geology, the White Mountains cover a quarter of the state, the highest summits of which are all named after former U.S. Presidents in order of serving (the tallest being Mount Washington). The population of New Hampshire is 1.3 million, the capital is Concord and the largest city is Manchester.

Notable films set in New Hampshire include On Golden Pond (Squam Lake), Our Town (based on the play by Thornton Wilder and inspired by the town of Peterborough, Hillsborough County where Wilder spent his summers), Jumanji (filmed in Keene, Cheshire County) and In the Mouth of Madness (inspired by the works of New England resident H. P. Lovecraft).

The quintessential New Hampshire author is John Irving who was born in 1942 in Exeter, Rockingham County (also the birthplace of New Hampshire's most famous living writer Dan Brown) and has set many of his novels in the state. The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Widow for One Year all feature schools based on the Phillips Exeter Academy of which Irving is an alumnus, while Last Night in Twisted River opens on a logging settlement on the Androscoggin River.

However, as Irving's novels tend to often feature lengthy excursions to Vienna where Irving studied in his twenties I have settled on the best selling novel to date to have been set in New Hampshire - Peyton Place.

First published in 1956, selling 60,000 copies in its first week of release, and going on sell over 32 million copies, Peyton Place was written by Grace Metalious who was born in 1924 in the mill town of Manchester, NH. The fictitious town that lends its name to the title of the novel was based on a composite of Gilmanton, the village where Metalious lived, Laconia, and Alton, all in Belknap County. Its scandalous subject matter (including incest, abortion, and adultery) caused instant controversy upon publication, especially with the inhabitants of small town New England who had inspired it.

Review to follow next week...

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