Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian
04 February 2014
The Shipping News
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx is another of those books from 2013 that has fallen into my not-so-good pile. It was actually made into a film, and there are some amazing descriptions that burst across the pages from all directions, painting vivid pictures, layering new images on top of old ones, bringing Newfoundland to some kind of life, so, I suppose, you are wondering why the book ended up in my not-so-good pile? Unfortunately, by the end of the novel, in spite of all the great descriptions, I was hunting around for words to describe it as a whole, and I could only think of bleak, cold and grey. Interlaced with the greyness are countless descriptions of unappetizing food: turkey soup in which a stringy neck vein floats, squid burgers, pallid clumps of scallops, stewed cod in a lunch box... descriptions that more than often turned my stomach. Most of the characters are also grey, or perhaps it is simply that they appear greyer than they actually are because the environment in which they live is stronger than they are. I did not come close to any of the characters with the exception, perhaps, of Bunny, who is the daughter of the main character, Quoyle. if you have read the book and you have a different (or even the same) experience, I would love to hear from you.