Henry Beston 2019. The Outermost House. 2nd edition, 1949. Republished 2019 Pushkin Press: London, 193 pp.
Henry Beston’s intended wife wouldn’t marry him until he had written this book, the story of a year spent within yards of the ocean beach on Cape Cod, in the time when the surf men patrolled the beach night and day so as to rescue, or try to, boats wrecked on this easternmost cape of the USA. The story of those patrols, rescues, and attempted rescues is memorable, but so are the accounts of marine, plant and bird life on the dunes of Cape Cod year round.
Henry Beston is sort of like a Henry Thoreau but without the obsessive introspective philosophy which is more measured and enhanced by an acutely informed and detailed knowledge of the flora and fauna. And the past history of the Cape. Remains of Pleistocene/Holocene forests are cast up on the beach occasionally, and the region must have a history as interesting as Dogger Land but perhaps less well known, at least there seems little evidence remaining of previous human settlements even though the geological history since the last ice age is better known.
The house was swept away by a storm in 1978 but there was a near miss in the time that Henry Beston lived in it, about 1925-1927.