From Red Clay and Salt Water: Prince Edward Island and Its People


96 pages
ISBN 0-921556-40-3
DDC 971.7'04'0222





Photos by John Sylvester
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Interviews and photographs enjoy a symbiotic relationship in this
celebration of the little province known as the “Garden of the

Sylvester’s rich, evocative landscapes help us see the island as an
artist experiences it—full of extravagant color and texture, a magical
place of shifting moods and velvet-like tranquillity. The book includes
80 of these beautiful portraits of the land (the term landscape seems
inadequate) and its people.

Woven together with these visual statements are 18 interviews with
Islanders. These are oral history—statements by ordinary people,
reproduced in their own words, on their lives and work. The speakers
include fishers, farmers, a fish-plant worker, an Irish-moss harvester,
a potter, a basket weaver, a ferry captain, musicians, and Islanders who
“come from away.”

The book works on several levels. On the surface, it is an album of
high-quality interpretative photos. Some are good, some excellent, some
outstanding. The book’s designer recognized these different degrees of
quality and manipulated the layout to give the best shots space in which
to be appreciated. At a second level, it is an introduction to the tone
and mood of P.E.I., a guidebook to a province’s self-image. And on
still another level, it is an exploration of humankind’s spiritual
interaction with the earth. As a quote from the book expresses it, “if
you have any eyes whatsoever, you cannot but be totally fascinated by
what is going on here.”

This is one of those rare books that hold the mirror for us while we
try to see into our souls.


Sylvester, John., “From Red Clay and Salt Water: Prince Edward Island and Its People,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,