Land of Cockaigne

Jeffrey Lewis

Land of Cockaigne examines the impact the wealthy have on their communities, the ugliness of reactionary politics, and the sometimes insular nature of small towns.’
Portland Press Herald

‘I have been binging on good writing emanating from the Pine Tree State … Land of Cockaigne, named after a famous Bruegel painting depicting social dissolution, is another tale tangled by the interventions of the people ‘from away,’ the legions of out-of-staters who alight in Maine, part-time or full-time. Their inevitable, and inevitably thwarted, agenda is to transform Maine into what they would like it to be, rather than what it is.’
Boston Globe

‘Jeffrey Lewis has won Emmy Awards for TV screenwriting and he translates those skills into a figure-skating literary voice’
Morning Sentinel




‘This deeply humane novel, about an intricate relationship between born-heres and from-aways in a small Maine town, left my breathless, wordless, and grateful to be part of the human family. The story is riveting, the prose hypnotic. Lewis treats his flawed, beautiful characters with both a ruthless honesty and a rare generosity. I needed fifteen minutes to recover myself after I turned the final page. I’m sorry this blurb is inadequate. Let me just say: Unforgettable. I feel changed’
Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy, When We Were the Kennedys, and Ernie’s Ark

‘Lewis takes us deep into the strange and conflicted heart of the imagined Maine community of Sneed’s Harbour. But this is more than a quaint story of locals and city folks; in Lewis’s world, all the most modern moral vectors – of race, class, gender, and technology – are at play, offering us a new way of understanding how even our most idyllic dream of reinvention and redemption are never exempt from the very real and difficult gravity of the world. Land of Cockaigne is a beautifully written and highly inventive testament to grief, place, longing, and love.’
Jaed Coffin, author of A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants and Roughhouse Friday

‘Lewis plunges the reader into the rich interior lives of his characters, including not only Walter and Charley but also Stephen’s grieving girlfriend Sharon, various townspeople who oppose their action, and the visiting young men themselves. The result is an extraordinarily compassionate look at race, class, and community.’
Public Libraries Online


The Land of Cockaigne was an old medieval peasants’ dream of a sensual paradise on earth.

In Jeffrey Lewis’s novel, the Land of Cockaigne is a plot on the coast of Maine, once been a summer resort and now where Walter Rath and Catherine Gray, trying to assuage their grief and make meaningful their deceased son’s life, build what they hope will be a brief, fleeting version of paradise for a group of young men from the Bronx.

But the town of Sneeds Harbour is not amused. Well-meaning doubts lead to well-hidden threats. The Raths’ marriage unravels as fatefully as Walter’s faith in democracy. Boys who’ve only ever known the city find themselves in a land that may as well be the moon.

A parable of American society today, Land of Cockaigne is by turns furious, funny, subversive, tragic, and horrifying. What is to be done in the disaster of our times? Walter Rath offers a clue, a thesis, or prayer: Love is an action, not a feeling. Once you go down this path of faith, there is much to be done.

JEFFREY LEWIS has won a string of awards for his novels including the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. He has also received two Emmy Awards and the Writer’s Guild Award for his work as a television writer and producer. He is the author of Meritocracy: A Love StoryAdam the KingThe Conference of the BirdsBerlin CantataThe Inquisitor’s Diary, The Meritocracy Quartet, and Bealport.

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