Monday, September 14, 2009

Galore - Michael Crummey

Wow - this fall has produced some fantastic novels by Canadian authors.

My latest discovery is Galore by Michael Crummey, released from Random House Canada.

Galore opens sometime in the past in rural Newfoundland. It is hard times and the locals are respectfully waiting for a whale to die before they butcher it. Devine's Widow slices open the belly and a naked man falls out. As they carry him to the graveyard, he suddenly awakes. Unknown to any of them, he cannot tell them who he is, as he is mute. They christen him Judah and his life is inevitably woven into the tapestry, lives and memories of the people of Paradise Deep.

Paradise Deep is an isolated fishing port, insulated from the rest of the country by geography and tradition. Populated by characters both unusual, yet captivating, Galore is a mesmerizing read. It traces the intertwined lives of the residents through many generations. There is a magical feel to the book. Devine's Widow placed a curse many years ago on King-Me Sellers and his descendants. She is feared, yet revered by many. The fact that it is she who takes in Judah further builds her legend. Galore is the story of these two families and their descendants.

There are supernatural elements introduced, many taken from Newfoundland folklore and legends that Crummey discovered while researching his book. Baptism by passing a child through the branches of an ancient apple tree, a ghost who is seen by many but refuses to leave, superstitions and traditions that are accepted as part of their lives.

Dr. Newman, an American who comes to Paradise Deep "felt at times he'd been transported to a medieval world that was still half fairy tale."

But it is also the story of a rugged land and the resilient people who populate it. Politics and the formation of a fisheries union bring the world to Paradise Deep in the second half of of the book. But the past and history of the Rock is always there, coming full circle by the last page.

Crummey himself is Newfoundland born and bred and his voice captures the tone and timbre of a land and it's people.

I was quite sad to turn the last page. I had become completely caught up in Galore.

This was the first of Crummey's books that I had read and it definitely won't be the last. Highly recommended.


Unknown said...

The supernatural elements sound really interesting. Thanks for the review!

Jeanne said...

Probably it's because I don't read enough Canadian fiction to compare, but your description of this book reminds me of the parts I loved in The Shipping News.

bermudaonion said...

The premise of this book sounds so unique! I'm adding it to my wish list.

Marie Cloutier said...

sounds fantastic, and right up my alley!

Jeanne said...

Also I "splashed" you this afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Sounds really interesting and I know nothing about Newfoundland folklore and legends, so that part will be fascinating.

Teddy Rose said...

I loved his first two novels and I am looking forward to this one!

John Mutford said...

This may end up being the best book I've read this year. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't know if you read it, but I had an opportunity to interview Crummey about this book back in August.

And to Jeanne above: No, it's (thankfully) NOTHING like The Shipping News.

Teddy Rose said...

I finally read it and linked your review to mine. I was surprised at how much I really liked it.