My reading adventure is moving East. More specifically to the Maritimes and Newfoundland.
One of my favourite Canadian authors is Michael Crummey. After I graduated with my BA in English Lituerature, I didn’t pick up a book in a long time: I was read out (which is hard to believe if you know me!). Michael Crummey’s novel River Thieves got me reading again. In fact I loved the novel so much that I sent him an email saying so.
Source (and an interesting article on his thoughts about writing): http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-01-24/article-2873036/The-only-reason-to-write-is-because-you-love-it%3A-Crummey/1
Needless to say, when Galore came out I was very excited! I associate Crummey with good things: restoration of a love of reading, historical Canadian content, beautiful prose and story telling, dynamic and lasting characters, and insight into Newfoundland’s culture and heritage. I knew that I wanted to savour the experience of reading Galore and those expectations are what caused me to leave the book on the shelf for this long. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? (I should say here that I didn’t love The Wreckage as much as I love River Thieves and that was part of my apprehension.) But pick it up I did this week and am I ever glad. This is one of my Canadian favouirtes, up there with Salamander, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Unless!
In University I took a Canadian Folk Lore class. It was one of my favourite classes of my undergrad. We spent quite a bit of time discussing and talking about Newfoundland. So when I picked up Galore, I had a few things I was hoping for:
-old hag dreams
-long, story-filled family trees
-wind and ice
I was not disappointed. All of these elements were in the novel.
For those who have read the novel, you know that Crummey creates a tale of origins, families, fishing, and hardships. Like any oral tale, you are never sure if it is real or if there are only elements of reality in the tales and stories told, but maybe it’s more believable because it is in print? Crummey explores the origins of some of the legendary figures of a Newfoundland community. The living, wandering ghost Mr. Gallery; the healing witch Widow Devine; the leader and money-lender of the community, King-me Sellers; the rouge priest Father Phelan; and of course Jude/Judah, the man who came out of the whale’s belly.
Crummey was deliberate with his characters, and in an interview with Abe Books he explains that the character Jude comes from the song “Jack was Every Inch a Sailor”:
Jack was every inch a sailor,
Five and twenty years a whaler;
Jack was every inch a sailor,
He was born upon the bright blue sea.
When Jack grew up to be a man he went to Labrador,
He fished in Indian Harbour where his father fished before;
On his returning in the fog he met a heavy gale,
And Jack was swept into the sea and swallowed by a whale.
Once I got into the book, I couldn’t stop reading. Crummey takes you through six layers of a family tree in the Newfoundland community of Paradise Deep and allows the readers to see how legends, superstitions, and tales are developed and dropped over generations.
Anyone who enjoys the blur between reality and fiction, sort of like twilight blurs day and night, will enjoy this book and be drawn into the pages and stories that become folk lore in the small community of Paradise Deep.
“The whale came full into the open air a second time and a third, it almost seemed to be calling his attention. And something in that detail turned like a key in a lock, a story spiraling out of the ocean’s endless green and black to claim him” (333).
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)