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Beautifully written, heart wrenching story of the survival of young orphans in the harsh and remote Newfoundland coast.
“A body must bear what can’t be helped.”
That stark epigram could well serve as an anthem, summing up the entire book in one fateful pronouncement.
As an unblinking portrait of what life was like in the bygone era of Newfoundland’s isolated outports, this novel stands convincingly beside Crummey’s “Sweetland”, which explores the government-imposed shuttering of those tiny settlements. So, while this is primarily an intimate slice-of-life tale about the precarious existence and trials of two quite remarkable young people, it’s also a glimpse into a bygone society.
Michael Crummey has a special ability to portray the most grippingly unpleasant, gritty and painful experiences in the bluntest terms imaginable without causing his reader to shrink away in horror or disgust. His characters are simply obliged to endure, and by his frankness and humanity, Crummey induces us to accept it all as simply the plain truth of the human condition and keep reading. There are no villains here, no sense of evil and if there’s injustice it’s only the injustice of fate. If misfortune befalls, it’s only that which our own lack of foresight or wisdom imposes, not the fruit of malevolence; his characters are often rough, clumsy, lacking in grace or learning but they are well-meaning. You will know them by their lights.
So in the end, there is hardship here, at times seemingly beyond human endurance but there is no tragedy because tragedy stems from a failure of the human spirit, a betrayal of one’s self. And in Michael Crummey’s world, the lamp of the human spirit burns bright.
This novel is set in the early 19th century in an isolated cove in Newfoundland. The description of daily life as these two children struggle to survive - fishing and salting cod, picking berries and trying to grow vegetables - is really excellent. However, the story of these two children as move through puberty is less engaging.
Very well written, desperately bleak. I hope life wasn't really that bad, can't imagine how any one survived.
I finished approximately 50 pages before skimming ahead and reading the end.
I could not be interested in these characters, or their hum drum lives, or their isolation, or anything else.
Globe 100 2019. Two children orphaned and alone in Newfoundland. Listed for Giller and GG
A beautifully written book. All the words are important to tell the story of these two children growing up on their own. Eventually, the reader will get used to the vernacular used by the author.
The Innocents, brother Evered and sister Ada, remain truly innocent to the end. Theirs is a hard and bleak subsistence life in a small cove on Newfoundland, copying the ways their parents showed them to fish cod to trade for provisions and to grow and gather and preserve food through grueling conditions. The book is beautifully written and the language feels very natural to the setting, although I did have to refer to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English on several occasions.
Lost to me how anyone would like this book. Almost bailed on reading it 20 times but persevered to the end, just to try to understand why this book was so critically acclaimed. It was tedious and painful to read and the ending was terrible. Not sure it deserves the 1+star I gave it.
Michael Crummy has a writing style unlike any other author I have read. He tackles life issues that challenge your way of thinking. This story is set in a small cove in Newfoundland. Two young siblings are left to fend for themselves after the death of their parents. With no knowledge of the nature of growing up, the vagarities of other people, they continue life as was established by their parents: fishing in the summer and practically starving in the winter. Each year they run a debt to ship owner who buys their catch and puts the winter supply against their next year's catch. It is a grim way of life, which is eventually questioned by the siblings as they mature, and as other ships come across their cove. A very good book, but it may be disturbing to some.
One of the great Canadian books that has landed on the Giller 2019 short list. This book takes place on a rocky isolated shore in Newfoundland. It is richly imagined and compulsively readable, a riveting story of hardship and survival, and an unflinching exploration of the bond between brother and sister.
This book is "handy about perfect."