This is our first meeting since one of our founding members, Jolene, passed away. We drank a glass of wine in her memory. Members with us today are Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Michèle and Shirley. Michèle served several cheeses and pâtés with grapes and figs, and with wine of course. Naimimo bars, butter tarts and flourless chocolate cookies were served with tea and coffee.
This month we are discussing Annie Proulx’s book, The Shipping News, Colette’s choice. Annie Proulx, born Edna Ann Proulx in 1935 is an American author who began her writing career as a journalist. She has written several novels and short stories. Her latest novel is Barkskins. One of her short stories, Brokeback Mountain, was turned into a very well-reviewed and received movie. The Shipping News won several literary awards including the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was also made into a movie with Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench and Julianne Moore. Ms. Proulx wrote The Shipping News while staying in a cottage near l’Anse aux Meadows in northwest Newfoundland.
The Shipping News is a story about a New York reporter, Quoyle, who decides to move to Newfoundland with his aunt after difficult family life overwhelms him. The aunt has an ancestral home in Newfoundland and together with Quoyle’s daughters they move and slowly renovate the home. Quoyle eventually finds work as a reporter writing about the shipping news on the island. As in many of her books, there is little joy in this story; characters who are mean spirited, sexual abuse is rampant and very little kindness is apparent. Certainly Quoyle is very protective of his daughters and eventually Quoyle and Wavey get together but it is left to the last 15 pages. One of our members who has read several of her short stories that are dark and depressing, described this book as her « happy » book. One member who recently read her newest novel, Barkskins agrees that The Shipping News is not as dark.
Newfoundland’s depressed economy as the cod supply diminishes and Quoyle and his aunt’s stories are influenced by the impact the economy has on the people of Newfoundland. She describes well life as it is on the island; it almost felt like flipping through an album or a scrapbook, seeing bits and pieces of lives and events that eventually fit together.
Her writing style, did irritate some of us: very short sentences with no verbs, sentences with no subject. However her descriptions of the landscape and the sea, the rugged beauty were very well done. Her descriptions of the sea and the weather were full, beautiful and scary in some parts.
She captured well all the characters, the meaness in some of them literally jumped off the page. Quoyle was a very sympathetic person despite being downtrodden. He is an ordinary, not particularly attractive person, who copes and perseveres. He is a patient man and as the story develops Quoyle moves closer to a life that offers him satisfaction and love.
There was a sense in the story from the characters and descriptions of the pull where we come from has on us as we grow older, how a very strong sense of place stays with us even if we move away.
It was a worthwhile read, thank you Colette for an excellent choice that generated good discussion.