Wednesday 11 May 2011

Proulx, Annie "The Shipping News"

Proulx, Annie "The Shipping News" - 1993

This book was recommended to me several times and the only excuse I had to not pick it up was that there were a lot of other books waiting to be read.

I really enjoyed this book. The story centers around Quoyle, an ordinary guy, you might even call him a loser. After his cheating wife dies in an accident, he moves with his aunt and his daughters to his ancestral home in Newfoundland where he works for a local newspaper.

Here he meets a lot of people who have been living in this remote small community all their life.

The life of these ordinary people are described in such a loving way that makes reading so much pleasure. Of course, life isn't easy, the problems a lot of small communities face when their major bread-winning jobs disappear lurks around the corner all the time, the characters have problems with each other as well as with the outside world but as the history of the family unfolds, we meet some wonderful loveable people.

A great read. - You also learn a lot about knots.

From the back cover:

"Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family.

Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a 'head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips,' is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.

Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it’s easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents).

As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph - in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover’s knot.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2024.

Annie Proulx received a Pulitzer Prize for "The Shipping News" in 1994.


  1. Exactly! I read this before it won the Pulitzer!

    1. I didn't but it had been on my wishlist for ages. Thanks, Davida.