From Bestselling, Award Winning Author Michael Crummey Comes A Sweeping, Heart Wrenching, Deeply Immersive Novel About A Brother And Sister Alone In A Small World A Brother And Sister Are Orphaned In An Isolated Cove On Newfoundland S Northern Coastline Their Home Is A Stretch Of Rocky Shore Governed By The Feral Ocean, By A Relentless Pendulum Of Abundance And Murderous Scarcity Still Children With Only The Barest Notion Of The Outside World, They Have Nothing But The Family S Boat And The Little Knowledge Passed On Haphazardly By Their Mother And Father To Keep ThemAs They Fight For Their Own Survival Through Years Of Meagre Catches And Storms And Ravaging Illness, It Is Their Fierce Loyalty To Each Other That Motivates And Sustains Them But As Seasons Pass And They Wade Deeper Into The Mystery Of Their Own Natures, Even That Loyalty Will Be TestedThis Novel Is Richly Imagined And Compulsively Readable, A Riveting Story Of Hardship And Survival, And An Unflinching Exploration Of The Bond Between Brother And Sister By Turns Electrifying And Heartbreaking, It Is A Testament To The Bounty And Barbarity Of The World, To The Wonders And Strangeness Of Our Individual Selves Ava was ten, her brother twelve, when her less than a year old baby sister died Their mother and father took sick and soon followed The family has lived an isolated life in a secluded New Toy Diane cove, their access to people restricted to the elderly woman who came to help her mother during the birthing Now they were truly alone Alone but not helpless having helped their parents in their daily lives Fishing for for, trading with a ship that came once a year, the bartered for the supplies they needed to see them through the winter Life was far from easy but they fou d joy in small things, small treasures found on the shoreline, berry picking A few others would make their way to the cove, introducing them to some examples of the world outside their cove.A quiet novel, with a slow pace, but one that gives the reader beautiful descriptions of cove, and nature It did go to a place that made me a little uncomfortable, but the story and their life, p us the title, reminded me that these tow knew little, were innocent in some ways, and had no one else A story that I not only read, but felt inside, hope these two would prosper, find a life that in the future would fit There is just something about these quiet, but meaningful novels that for ne, never fail to appeal I loved these characters, struggled with them and wished they had found a different way They did though, the best with what they knew, and what they had How could that be looked down on She went through the other contents of her shelf, culling the shells and rocks and feathers that had lost their lustre, objects that had once possessed a hint of magic or beauty or mystery and now seemed merely ordinary It was confounding to see magic and beauty and mystery Leach out of a thing, to think it could be used up like a store of winter supplies Pleasure and shame Shame and pleasure These were the world s currencies And itbpaid out both in equal measure ARC from Edelweiss. The Innocents Shortlisted for the 3 major literary awards of 2019 The Giller Prize, The Governor General s Awards, and the Rogers Writers Trust Prize There is much to admire in Michael Crummey s writing He masterfully evokes a time and place which is set in the harsh, isolated world of northern Newfoundland, probably in the early 1800s It is an inhospitable environment The desolate area overlooks an often dangerous, raging sea where months long ice fields trap boats, and winters are long with frequent snowstorms The shoreline is hard and rocky, and summers short for growing crops The author brilliantly describes this rough landscape and impoverished living conditions The use of obscure and archaic Newfoundland words and expressions made the story sound authentic As much as I admire the writing style and the vivid sense of place, I regret to say that this was a grim and dismal read for me There was much misery and I felt uncomfortable reading the book The story moved at a languid pace which is as expected when describing days of chores and drudgery with not much else going on I realize I am in the minority here, but I found it slow moving and gloomy I have enjoyed the author s past books, Galore and Sweetwater A young brother and sister, Evered and Ada, aged approximately 12 and 10, are left entirely alone after the deaths of their mother, father and baby sister They have no awareness or access to the outside world, and lack skills and information which would help in their survival They have never had any education Their only contact with others is when a supply ship arrives twice yearly It brings provisions in trade for fish and furs The youngsters have inherited their father s debt The brother and sister are protective of each other They are resilient and determined to survive, if unlikely to thrive With his father s fishing boat Evered brings fish to the supply vessel, but it is never considered sufficient and returns to their cold, dirt floored shack with meagre supplies Later in addition to codfish, he trades furs after having learned to hunt and trap This is never enough to free themselves from debt In the meantime, Ada tends the garden, picks berries and makes jam The years pass by without relief from their dreary existence There is temptation when they begin to have sexual feelings for each other due to their isolation from other people They lack understanding but are burdened with plenty of confusion, ignorance, and guilt The ending is bleak and inconclusive, but with some hope of a better future for The Innocents. They were left together in the cove then with its dirt floored stud tilt, with its garden of root vegetables and its scatter of outbuildings, with its looming circle of hills and rattling brook and its view of the ocean s grey expanse beyond the harbour skerries The cove was the heart and sum of all creation in their eyes and they were alone there with the little knowledge of the world passed on haphazard and gleaned by chance I love when an ARC opens with a note from the book s editor, giving some insider bit of info, and The Innocents begins with, Years ago, in the archives, Michael Crummey found mention of a late eighteenth century clergyman who had happened upon an adolescent brother and sister living all alone in an isolated cove off the northern coast of Newfoundland When the clergyman approached the siblings to inquire into their circumstances, into how they were managing to survive, he was driven off the cove by the boy at gunpoint The implications of that encounter would stay with Michael and eventually inspire The Innocents In March of 2018, there were 1,500 words by July, there were 90,000 I can t help but think the intensity of the novel s creation is reflected in the thing itself I quote Martha Kanya Forstner at length here because that s all a prospective reader really needs to know From the merest suggestion of a plot situation, Michael Crummey has dreamed up two fully formed characters, bound by blood and the desperate quest for survival for which their parents never dreamed they d so soon need to be fully prepared, and by richly describing their daily labour, and throwing in intermittent visits from outsiders that expand the siblings understanding of the wider world, Crummey does right by history, literature, and the exploration of humanity It s all here and it s all good Note As I did read an ARC, passages quoted may not be in their final forms Evered and Ada Best were approaching twelve and eleven, as near as it can be reckoned, when some illness carried off their parents one winter The parents are present for just enough at the beginning of the story to show what kind of world these children were raised in and to underline just what they lost All the two know of their circumstances is that every spring their father would row out to a schooner that anchors at the mouth of their cove to pick up provisions, and then row out again every fall to deliver the season s catch of cod, picking up their winter stores at that time When The Hope appears as expected, Evered rows out and learns the truth of their situation The yearly catch never quite covers the cost of the flour, peas, and molasses that their father would bring home, and being thus in debt to some faraway Mr Strapp, his agent, the Beadle , must decide whether the youngster before him would be capable of bringing in a sufficient haul of cod, or whether he should send the two into service somewhere until they might clear their family s ledger of debt Evered convinces the man to give them a season to prove themselves likely because no one else would want to take over their enterprise with its remote, inhospitable curve of the rock and its sand floored, drafty hut and the siblings begin the back breaking work of hand fishing, preparing salt cod, hard scrabble gardening, and the hundred other tasks of survival Their catch is just decent enough to satisfy the Beadle when he returns again in the fall, but it s not nearly enough to touch the debt and so the seasons and the years go by.Crummey, being a noted poet as well as a novelist, is a master at selecting just the right words to describe the landscape and the atmosphere and the human heart and I am always delighted by his obscure Newfoundlandisms a dwy of snow and my little blowsabella sound like something out of The Jabberwocky to my ear The work and the worries are so well captured, but we never forget that these are children these are innocents I smiled as they played games and especially their invented There s Your Answer and it broke my heart that a snatch of a drinking song that Evered overheard on board The Hope became the only song the siblings knew small blessings, I guess, that they even found the one to fill a dark winter s evening view spoiler Even heartbreaking to learn that their inlet becomes known as Orphan Cove in the greater world Everyone knows the siblings situation and location and no one offers help hide spoiler Such desolation and yet such beauty Wow I loved this book I hadn t even been sure I d like it let alone love it, and I m glad I decided to read it The Innocents tells the story of two children whose parents are raising them along the coast of northern Newfoundland It is a remote area, far from even the nearest town When the parents die, the children are left to their own innovativeness and fortitude in order to survive in this bleakest and cruelest of locations The winters are long and brutal, the summers short and full of hard work There is no electricity, no running water, no supermarkets, and certainly no internet These two brave young people must rely on just themselves and each other for everything They know very little of the outside world and have only met a handful of other people The perils they face are many, from starvation to illness and .This is a remarkable book I was drawn in from the very beginning, invested in these kids lives, hoping they would survive It is gritty and brutal and yet I did not want to put it down I didn t like the hunting parts, but at the same time I knew these children needed to do whatever it took to survive, and also, at least the animals had a decent life, not suffering in some factory farm, during their lives.The story was predictable and yet that did not take away from my enjoyment of it It is written so well that I could almost feel myself shiver in that cold and harsh environment, see the ice and snow covered landscape, feel the bitter, biting wind on my face This is a remarkable book and I highly recommend it Note this is not YA despite it being about children teens 3.5, rounded up.Sweetland was my favorite book of 2015, so I was so delighted that the long four year wait was finally over with Mr Crummey s new novel Unsurprisingly, it is both set in Newfoundland, and has a mixture of the harsh realities of that landscape, along with the gorgeous, precise prose for which Crummey is suitably lauded There are also hints of the supernatural, as in his previous novel, as well as some harrowing set pieces that he renders cinematically, so the reader can t help but picture them in their mind s eye.My only very minor complaint is that it just didn t have the propulsive momentum of the earlier work it s languid in pace, and there isn t the strong through line or indeed, much of a plot in the traditional sense to carry one along But reading this reminded me that I NEED to tackle Crummey s back catalog, as he is certainly a one of a kind writer, and I have enjoyed everything he s written so far And what an unusual and gorgeous cover My sincere thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday books for the ARC in exchange for this honest review. I regret to say that at about the 2 3 mark I bailed on this book Yes, it s atmospheric and well written, but I came to find the story of two orphaned siblings in remote, late 18th century Newfoundland increasingly tedious I grew weary of reading view spoiler about the sexual tension and sexual activity between the two I just wasn t as interested in the matter as Crummey apparently is hide spoiler The story of two orphaned siblings fighting for survival on the wild Labrador coast of Newfoundland With the exception of a couple of dramatic set pieces, the plot is secondary to the extraordinary relationship that develops between brother and sister I use the word extraordinary here to elude to a theme which is central to the novel but which is best discovered for one s self Michael Crummey writes beautifully of landscape, conveying in an economical and yet poetic style, the vastness and the drama of the local coastline The cold and isolation demanding a mental fortitude in order to persevere with the mundane slog of daily survival The entire thing is intensely realised, take this snippet about an approaching storm It was like watching a pantomime play out on the boards of the ocean s monumental theatre, Evered alone upon it as the tempest s slow motion calamity crossed the surface like a marauding army advancing on a field And nothing to be done but wait for the collision and stand witness The unique Newfoundland lexicon, is such a big part of the charm of the book The faffering wind and the idea of a person being a grumbletonian particularly amused me Interesting and archaic curse words also abound Muck spout , Filthy beard splitter, Blowsabella, it is just such a joy to stumble over them all.A surprisingly terse ending is the only dent to an otherwise fascinating survival coming of age story. THE INNOCENTS is an atmospheric story of survival set in 18th century Newfoundland It begins with death leaving a young brother and sister ages 12 and 10 orphaned Alone and isolated, Evered and Ada begin and end each day struggling to feed themselves, stay warm during the severe winters, procure enough food throughout the short spring and summer to trade for supplies, and learn the ways of their growing bodies and the world.together.
Didn t much care for this one or some of the places it took the reader A tedious read, for me, unlike Crummey s SWEETLAND.
Many thanks to Doubleday Books via NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.The Innocents is an example of great storytelling It reminded me a lot of Hannah Kent s Burial Rites It is a beautifully constructed, measured story of two orphans, innocent of social expectations and norms, the world of commerce, and adult relationships The real star of this novel, is the inhospitable Newfoundland Coast Crummey brings this desolate environment to life, and it looms large in every moment a force which perpetually threatens to overwhelm the innocence of Ada and Everedd This novel isn t for the faint hearted It s challenging, and at times gruesomely direct but it s also absorbing My main complaint was that the ending is quite abrupt A great read which I m so glad my book club brought to my attention. 1 2LONGLISTED FOR 2019 GILLER PRIZECrummey follows up Galore and Sweetland with another captivating and intimate story rooted in Newfoundland history Ava and Everett are siblings dealing with the sudden death of there parents and baby sister Alone in a cove were their parents had run a fishing operation, the brother and sister decide to continue it on despite being so young and isolated on the cove Over the next several years, Ava and Everett must overcome the treacherous ravages of the Atlantic coast, all the while dealing with the ghosts of their past and the uncertainty of becoming adults with little idea of what that will entail.As with other Crummey books, the human characters must constantly negotiate their environment, which in itself becomes a driving force and influence on the decisions of the story s players And few environs cast such a large shadow as that of the Newfoundland coast s Here Crummey skillfully weaves an intimate coming of age story with the giant wins of a harsh and barely inhabitable world Beautifully done and I expect it to be shortlisted on the 30th.
- 304 pages
- The Innocents
- Michael Crummey
- 18 February 2019 Michael Crummey