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Book 141: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Book 141: The Shipping News.
Author: Annie Proulx, 1993.
Genre: Literary. Comedy/Drama. Relationships. Mature Themes.
Other Details: Paperback. 397 pages.

Quoyle is a hapless, hopeless hack journalist living and working in New York. When his no-good wife is killed in a spectacular road accident, Quoyle heads for the land of his forefathers – the remotest corner of far-flung Newfoundland. With ‘the aunt’ and his delinquent daughters – Bunny and Sunshine – in tow, Quoyle finds himself part of an unfolding, exhilarating Atlantic drama. ‘The Shipping News’ is an irresistible comedy of human life and possibility. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I admit to being puzzled by the UK publisher describing this as a comedy. Certainly there are elements of dark comedy stemming from the eccentricity of some characters and the situations that arise, but I would label it more as a drama.

This was a reading group selection and one of those novels that I could appreciate for its writing style and content while not being particularly engaged with its characters. I did find that that the themes of loss, bereavement and coming to terms with major life changes were well executed. in addition, the setting of Newfoundland was extremely well realised. Although apparently set in the present (it was written in early 1990s) there was something very timeless about the maritime setting.

Unfortunately I was taken ill and missed the reading group meeting where it was discussed so have no idea how it was received. The film adaptation was shown on the BBC last weekend and it did give me a better appreciation of the novel as it was so well acted. The film did down-play the elements of sexual abuse though even in the novel this was not explicit but mainly mentioned in terms of various news stories carried by the Newfoundland paper that Quoyle was employed by. Pearl, Quoyle's wife, was also not quite the monster she was in the novel. While not my kind of novel I always appreciate that belonging to a reading group is about reading outside of one's comfort zone and on reflection I am certainly glad that I read it.
Tags: award winner, canada, canadian lit, drama, family saga, grief, pulitzer winner
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