Galore Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Aug 11 2009
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Quill & Quire
For its sheer extremes, both real and conjured, Newfoundland occupies a singular place in Canada’s history and literary imagination. While the typical Newfoundland narrative emphasizes the rugged terrain and pragmatic lifestyle of the land’s inhabitants – usually in a mode of straightforward naturalism – Michael Crummey’s third novel injects an element of magic realism to convey an otherworldly quality. The result is a work that surprises and reveals. With this new novel, the very title of which suggests Newfoundland’s wealth of stories, Crummey, a Newfoundland native now living in St. John’s, reaffirms his position as a leading voice in the literature of the Rock. Galore vividly imagines Newfoundland’s early permanent settlements, established around the beginning of the 19th century when English and Irish immigrants, among others, set up cod fisheries. Scattered along the coastline, these tiny settlements endured in an unimaginably hostile environment and with scarce resources. Focusing on two stark coastal communities – Paradise Deep and the Gut – Galore depicts multiple generations of two families divided by wealth, status, politics, and religion, yet inextricably bound by duty, shame, clandestine love, revenge, and the challenge of survival in the New World. The English Protestant Sellers, headed by patriarch, magistrate, and tyrant King-me Sellers, reside in Paradise Deep, where they run a merchant operation and exercise significant economic and political power over the two communities. The Sellers’ connection to the Devines, a family of Irish Catholic fishermen living in the Gut, is a matter of great irritation for King-me, whose pride was long ago wounded by the Devines’ matriarch – known to all as Devine’s Widow – when she refused his proposal of marriage. An embittered King-me accuses Devine’s Widow of cursing the Sellers family and initiating a chain of inauspicious events that will forever bind the two families. Devine’s Widow’s reputation for being a witch with supernatural powers remains with her throughout her life, and she is both feared and revered for it. However, the supernatural elements in Galore are not confined to one character. Folk remedies for strange afflictions, ancient pagan rituals, merwomen, a murderer’s ghost that haunts his wife, and mummers with uncanny insight all contribute to a portrait of a people caught between the living and the dead, the real and the phantasmagoric. The most dramatic example of the novel’s otherworldly aspect is the presence of the mysterious, mute Judah, a seemingly ageless man (he appears unchanged throughout the two-hundred-year span of the novel) delivered to the settlements in the belly of a whale. Judah miraculously emerges alive, and exhibits remarkable abilities to promote healing and abundance for the people of the Gut. Despite his strangeness, which isolates him from the community, this mystical, self-sacrificing, Christ-like figure – who refers to himself as “God’s Nephew” – is one of the only truly sympathetic characters in the novel, unaffected by the bleakness of Newfoundland life. Perhaps in an effort to provide a fanciful tale of early Newfoundland with a more substantial historical framework, Crummey introduces the well-known politician and union organizer William Coaker in the second part of the novel. Coaker, who founded the Fisherman’s Protective Union in 1908 and was heavily involved in Newfoundland politics around the time of the First World War, attempts to recruit union members from among the fishermen in the community, men who are suffering from the merchants’ stranglehold on fish prices and trade. Coaker’s unsettling presence in the community, his dubious role in the passing of the Military Service Act of 1918 that brings conscription to the Newfoundland shore, and the union’s resulting loss of power and respect, usher in the anticlimactic close of the novel. With the youngest member of the Devine family gone to war, his fate undetermined, and other inhabitants of Paradise Deep and the Gut having fled elsewhere, the reader is left to wonder what will become of those who are left behind as the events of the 20th century continue to unfold. Despite this, Galore remains a dense, intricate, and absorbing tale, rich in the nuances of human relationships. Those hoping for a plot-driven read will, however, be disappointed in what is primarily, and successfully, a character study that, while not exactly cheery, has charm galore.
Praise for The Wreckage:
“Crummey offers a journey of stimulating moral inquiry…. Heroically human.”
— The Globe and Mail
“Crummey’s gift is to write with compassion, complexity and depth.”
— National Post
“The writing moves with the confidence of someone at home with his material and setting, well-versed in its details both beautiful and awful.”
— Atlantic Books Today
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Top Customer Reviews
A multi-generational tale of community, Galore is set in a small fishing village in Newfoundland - exactly when and exactly where are not revealed. The story begins with the death of a whale, and a shocking discovery inside its belly.
It tracks generations of two families, the Sellers and the Devines, and their rivalries, grudging inter-dependence, secret romances and superstitions.
The village is entirely dependent on the mercy of the ocean - to provide their food, to return their sailors home safe, to not wash away their homes. Year after year, babies are born, people die, people marry, hopes are raised and dashed, and the ocean is there for it all, along with the mystery the dead whale brought.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. Galore is a treat to read, by turns dark and slippery, funny and quirky, heartbreaking and tragic, and the people feel real enough to touch. Their stories can't be put down. I recommend it highly.
Michael Crummey who is a friend and a writer I admire, I'll admit that off the bat, has done a remarkable job with this book.
Galore is a book inspired by the mythology of Newfoundland. I'm going to quote from the Globe and Mail review here because I simply can't say it any better:
"The novel opens with a group of people in the fictional Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep, slaughtering a whale that has inexplicably beached itself. Young Mary Tryphena watches as the body of a man, pale and stinking, is cut from the whale's belly. Her grandmother, an old crone named Devine's Widow, defies the town oligarch, King-me Sellers, and has the man carried up the hill to prepare him for a proper burial.
"The man, it turns out, is in fact alive, though he cannot speak a word. In the spirit of compromise and illiteracy, he is given the name of Judah. He never does utter a word, and he never loses his stench, but his presence ignites a spark in Paradise Deep that sustains the story for multiple generations.
"Crummey's prose is flawless. He has a way with the colloquial that escapes many writers, an ability to make the idiosyncrasies of local speech an asset in creating an image in the reader's mind.
''They'd scaled the whale's back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work and they sat with their splitting knives and fish prongs, with their dip nets and axes and saws and barrels.Read more ›
If I have any complaints at all, they would be two. First, though I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, I found his extensive use of foul language a bit unnecessary and took a bit of getting used to. I don't think it added any realism that the rest of the story didn't already have and the book would have been better if it had been toned down a little.
The second problem I had was with the sheer number of characters to follow. At times I found myself flipping back to see how this person was related to that person. With all the families involved, it became pretty complex.
The two problems were minor enough that I still highly reccommend the book to anyone with an interest in social dynamics of isolation, or even just an interest in early life in a remote area. A very powerful read that will keep you thinking about the characters and situations long after you have closed the back cover.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I read all Crummey's novels and they are all very good, but this is a masterpiece. So much goes on it is impossible to summerise. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Pat Joubert
Very interesting ago read. Was in NL this summer and the book explained a few thingsPublished 16 months ago by Nancy C. Mackenzie
fast-paced - this novel spans generations and comes full-circle creating a Jonah in the belly of the whale myth that is purely Canadian.Published 16 months ago by Epatha Lyons
This was my first read of this Canadian author and I loved it! Elements of history, romance, family drama and folk lore rolled up into a beautifully written story. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Heather
The story captured my attention initially, but over time, I got tired of the main character's antics. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Tracy Lewis-Currie
What a horible book.survive half of it and can't take any more and look at end chapters.nothing new just waist of paper,money.books suppose to one of these. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Thomas Junek