Genre: Literary fiction, Masculinity
Narrative Style: Third person from varying points of view
Synopsis: When Quoyle’s unfaithful wife meets her end in a car crash, he decides to move back to Newfoundland where his family were originally from with his two daughters and an old aunt. Here he starts his life anew, writing the Shipping News for a local paper and discovering that love doesn’t need to involve pain.
Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.
Time on Shelf: Not entirely sure. But some time after Brokeback mountain came out, I read the short story collection that Brokeback Mountain came from and then bought this not long after that.
This is one of those books where I was so glad to have read it. Why did I wait so long to do so? Actually, I know the answer to that one. The title, The Shipping News, really put me off. I had expectations that it would be about shipping and different types of boat. It was nothing like that.
It is quite slow paced, seemingly matching the life of the Newfoundlanders. Everyday life is captured successfully and if that sounds tedious, it really isn’t. The novel is populated with strange and interesting characters who don’t always behave in expected ways. It is more a series of small happenings, than one over-arching plot line.
Quoyle – the main character – is really quite hopeless. He loves his two-timing wife despite her infidelities because that is what he believes love should be like. He almost misses a second chance at love with Wavey because it looks different to this model. He is moved by the forces of life and death, seemingly doing little of his own volition – at least, at first. But for all that, it is easy to empathise with him, left with two unruly daughters and a large house that is falling to pieces.
There are a lot of supporting characters, all of whom seem to have absurd names such as Tert Card, Petal Bear and Nutbeam. All have some bearing on Quoyle’s life, be it at the paper where he writes the Shipping News, The Gammy Bird, or in the small town where he resides. By the end of the novel, Quoyle has a satisfying job, friends and the possibility of love with Wavey. In some ways, this novel has the hallmarks of a bildungsroman except that Quoyle is a grown man at the beginning.
Proulx has an interesting prose style. There are lots of short, incomplete sentences which I can imagine some would find annoying but which I quite liked. The style is clipped, straight forward and I found it easy to read. There is some depressing imagery. After all, this book describes some bleak locations. But it wasn’t heavy going and it fitted the mood of the novel, particularly in the first half.
So I would say to anyone who has this sitting on their shelf – don’t let it languish there. This is definitely a worthwhile read.