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The Shell Collector

Anthony Doerr

  • Paperback
PUBLISHED: 4th August 2003
ISBN: 9780007146987
A debut collection of stories from a young American writer.
The Shell Collector
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  • Paperback
PUBLISHED: 4th August 2003
ISBN: 9780007146987
A debut collection of stories from a young American writer.


A debut collection of stories from a young American writer.

Publisher Description

A remarkable collection of stories from a young American writer of huge potential: 'A show-stopping debut, as close to faultless as any writer could wish for' Los Angeles Times 'His fingers dug the shell up, he felt the sleek egg of its body, the toothy gap of its aperture. It was the most elegant thing he'd ever held. "That's a mouse cowry," the doctor said. "A lovely find. It has brown spots, and darker stripes at its base, like tiger stripes. You can't see it, can you?" But he could. He'd never seen anything so clearly in his life.' In this assured, exquisite debut, Anthony Doerr takes readers from the African coast to the suburbs of Ohio, from sideshow pageantry to harsh wilderness survival, conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and its crushing power. The blind hero of the title story spends his days roaming the beaches of Kenya, his fingers ploughing through sandy granules of grace and intrigue, his German shepherd at his side. And then there are whale-watchers and fishermen, hunters and mystics, living lives uncompleted or undone, caught, memorably, as they turn toward the reader. A natural storyteller, Doerr explores the human dilemma in all its manifestations: longing, grief, indecision, heartbreak and slow, slow recuperation. Shimmering with elegance and invention, The Shell Collector is an enchanting and imaginative book by a young writer just setting off on what will surely be a hugely compelling literary odyssey.

Author Biography

anthony doerr's stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Atlantic Monthly. The Shell Collector is his first book. He is 28 and lives in Idaho, where he is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Boise State University .


'Perilously beautiful, precise and elegant... Doerr can describe a woman running through a Tanzanian forest with the careful specificity of a scientist and the awe of a poet; he can give you a sunrise with the glory-bound colours of apricot and gold, and two pages later you're meeting a young woman in Idaho, who falls in love with the metal-eater at the country fair... Breathtaking.' Boston Globe 'Remarkable... Reminiscent of Annie Proulx's wonderful Close Range and Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever, The Shell Collector illuminates both the riotous dangers of the natural world and the rocky terrain of the human heart, thrusting us into environments we can only hope to control.' LA Times 'Doerr's prose dazzles, his sinewy sentences blending the naturalist's unswerving gaze with the poet's gift for metaphor. And it does so from the very beginning, opening with such a sensual description of shells that it's almost a shock to discover, a page later, that the character ''seeing'' them is blind.' New York Times 'Anthony Doerr is a gifted and fearless new writer. He is absolutely unafraid to take on the biggest themes of the human condition, always writing about heroes and their various epic journeys. The Shell Collector is unforgettable -- not so much a book of short stories as a book of short myths.' Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Pilgrims and Stern Men) 'These complex, resonant, beautifully realised stories sing. An entire world unfolds in each, memorable and rich; together they form a remarkable first collection.' Andrea Barrett 'This striking debut collection offers boldly imagined and scrupulously detailed explorations of the mysteries inherent in both the natural world and human interconnection... The best new book of short fiction since Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever. Keep your eye on Doerr.' Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus UK Review

This is a finely honed collection by a new author, still in his 20s, who hails from Idaho. The shell collector of the title is a blind hermit who has retreated from his life as a professor and writer to live near an African lagoon and pursue his vocation of finding and identifying shells. We are first introduced to him at his sink, scrubbing limpets, before he goes out reluctantly to meet a pair of overweight tabloid reporters from the US. They've come to winkle out his amazing story: how he uses 'cone' shells to heal people from disease. It all started, we learn, 'when a malarial Seattle-born Buddhist named Nancy was stung by a cone shell' in his kitchen. Gradually, delicately, Doerr draws out the shell collector's entire life: the opthalmologist who led him to his first spit of beach; his first shell find, a mouse cowry, brown-spotted and tiger-striped at its base; his period of crewing in the tropics; the existence of a son, Josh, who airmails a letter every month, and one day, by surprise, splashes into the lagoon. In this, as in the other stories, Doerr makes vivid use of elements of the natural world to create a landscape in which everything seems to be quivering on the brink of movement. With a few deft words, he draws sharp and evocative word pictures, summoning a fairground ('the smells of fried dough, caramel and cinammon, the flap-flapping of tents, a carousel plinking out music-box songs') or the chill of deepest winter ('he showed her a pair of dormant frogs buried in frozen mud, their blood crystallised until spring'). This collection of complex and assured stories is sure to win him many admirers. (Kirkus UK)

Product Details

Anthony Doerr
HarperCollins Publishers
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Publication Date