Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Books galore: Newfoundland in fiction

I have developed an unwitting penchant for literature set in Newfoundland. The first book I read set in Canada's eastern province was The Shipping News (1993) by E Annie Proulx, my fascination cemented by the remarkable work of another American writer: Howard Norman. In what could loosely be termed a trilogy, from The Bird Artist (1994), through The Museum Guard (1998) to The Haunting of L (2002), he toyed with the themes of parental death, infidelity and murder, set mainly in Halifax (Nova Scotia), St John's, the largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador (as it is now), a distant presence.

Despite its size, I don't remember much of Wayne Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1998), other than a vague sense of disappointment that put me off attempting his follow up, The Navigator of New York (2002). Now, a Canadian friend has introduced me to the truly wonderful Galore by Michael Crummey, another local author. Recently available in Britain (thanks to New York's Other Press), Galore tells of the various residents of fishing town Paradise Deep, trading in a rich history of community and storytelling. Part one is biblical in its fecundity, part two so poignant you have to stop every few pages to draw breath. Nevertheless, I raced through it with a pleasure I haven't experienced from many recent reads.

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