With a poet’s sensitivity to words and images, and a ballad-singer’s awareness of cadences and narrative tension, Michael Crummey creates a rich novel of Newfoundland from the nineteenth century through World War I. Deftly combining the brutal realities of subsistence fishermen and farmers with the mythic tales that give hope to their lives, he traces the lives of two families through six generations in Paradise Deep and the Gut, rural areas worlds away from life in St. John’s. With its huge scope in time and its limited scope in location, the novel straddles the line between the epic and the comic epic, honoring the characters’ resilience as they struggle to survive during times of extreme privation (and six months of nearly paralyzing winter), while also celebrating the stories and long-held myths which give interest and even hope to their lives. The individual stories of the two main families over six generations here are complex, and two helpful genealogies at the beginning of the book may become well-worn as the reader tries to keep the characters all straight. The novel should appeal to those who enjoy historical family sagas.
Category Archive for 'Newfoundland'
It’s always fun to reread a novel that was a favorite fifteen years ago and discover that it’s just as much fun the second time around. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1994, The Shipping News is set primarily in Newfoundland, the ancestral home of Quoyle, a widower from New York, and his aunt, Agnis Hamm, who return to Newfoundland with Quoyle’s two young daughters to try to create new lives. Quoyle, with minimal experience as a newspaper man in New York, gets a job at the local newspaper, the Gammy Bird, at Killick Claw, recording the weekly shipping news, doing features on visiting ships, and covering local car wrecks. Life in Killick Claw is often bleak, and its population must deal with violent storms, winters lasting six months, few connections to the outside world, and sudden death at sea, all of which Proulx describes in vivid and moving passages. But survival in this world also inspires kinship among its residents and a kind of dark-humored resignation which is even more vividly depicted.