The Shipping News – Stormy, with a chance of redemption…

The Shipping News – E Annie Proulx




Stormy, with a chance of redemption …


Timid, put-upon Quoyle has grown up and lived in upstate New York since his family emigrated from Newfoundland but, after a series of disruptive events, he is persuaded to return to his ancestral home in Canada.


The story is mainly set on the bleak, beautiful island of Newfoundland and in the lives and eccentricities of the inhabitants. The insular nature of the often hostile environment, where fishing has been the main industry for generations, has created a society full of fiercely individual people whose interdepence binds them. It is here that Quoyle finds a world to which he belongs.


The depths of ancestry explored and a darkly comic strain, coupled with the onomatopoeic nature of peoples’ names lend a richness and depth which is almost Dickensian.


A thematically appropriate feature of this book’s layout are the brief descriptions – and illustrations – of various sailors’ knots in each chapter heading. Proulx acknowledges The Ashley Book of Knots as inspirational in providing the thread on which she wove the story. Quoyle’s name, for example, is a mariners’ term for a coil of rope, one layer thick, which, when stored on deck, can be walked on – indicative of the main character’s fate earlier in life.


This novel won the Pulitzer Prize and the U.S. National Book Award and was adapted for a film starring Julianne Moore and Kevin Spacey.