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The Shipping News: 08/17/11

cover art

Quoyle moves to Newfoundland after his wife tries to run away with his life's savings after selling their daughters into the sex trade. The wife fails on both accounts and loses her life in the process. It sounds like an unlikely way to start a novel but E. Annie Proulx makes it work in The Shipping News.

Quoyle is described as average in all ways. As a child he never could do whatever his father expected of him. As and adult struggling in his job as a reporter he can never write to please his editor. He's not set up as the most likable of protagonists and perhaps I read at first to see if he'd fail in his endeavors after his move. Remarkably, he doesn't.

If anything, Quoyle reminds me of Dr. Martin Ellingham of Doc Martin who returns to his ancestral home after washing out as a surgeon in London. He's just as out of sorts as the new G.P. as Quoyle is as a reporter for the local paper. But both find their places eventually.

Newfoundland, home of his ancestors, some who are rumored to have been stark raving mad, suits him. Even if he arrives not knowing how to swim, fish or do anything else that the locals expect a resident to know. Despite all that and perhaps with careful egging on by his aunt, Quoyle manages to muddle along and make a place for himself and his daughters.

At the start of most chapters, Proulx includes a type of knot or other maritime piece of information relevant to the chapter. These snippets come from Ashley's Book of Knots, a book she found at a garage sale. I have to admit that I looked forward to seeing which knot would be introduced next. I've also added her source material to my wishlist.

Five stars.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Saturday, August, 20, 2011 at 13:19:29


I thoroughly enjoyed this book when I read it, the movie too a few years later.

Comment #2: Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 16:43:31


I haven't seen the movie. I keep forgetting that it was made into one.

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