Matt’s Weekly Reads, March 18, 2023


Galore, Michael Crummey (2009)

The complications and disappointments and modest epiphanies of those disparate lives seemed part of a single, all-encompassing story that had swallowed him whole.” These words, spoken about one of the characters in Michael Crummey’s epic of life in a small Newfoundland fishing village, are a reasonable enough thesis statement for the work as a whole. Starting from one long-ago day when a man was found alive in the belly of a beached whale, it traces four generations of the residents of Paradise Deep, through a mass of love affairs gone wrong, secrets that everyone knows but no one acknowledges, sectarian strife, and economic hardships, until the disaster of the First World War. It is a sweeping story of the hard lives of hard people on a hard rock of a land they call home.

I found myself in equal parts in love with this book and bored by it; I often confused the characters and quickly lost track of their disconcertingly convoluted family trees. It wasn’t until I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to do a ‘close reading’ of Galore that I came to appreciate it in its rich broad strokes, as all of the characters are “swallowed whole” by the village and the course of history. I didn’t love this book, but it earned my respect, and I have no doubt I’ll remember it for a long time.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Newfoundland
  • Atlantic Fishing Trade
  • Small Towns
  • Complicated Families
  • Multi-generational Epics

My Rating: Premise 8, Atmosphere 10, Main Character(s) 8, Plot 8, Intrigue 8, Relationships 8, Success 10, Writing 10, Enjoyment 7, Lasting Impact 9: TOTAL 86

Weekly Roundup

The Manticore (Deptford Trilogy 2), Robertson Davies (1972), 94: In this award-winning sequel to Fifth Business, David, a minor character in the first book, sees a psychotherapist to understand why he broke down following the death of his father, a successful, larger-than-life, businessman. As with all of the books in this trilogy, a synopsis doesn’t do this book justice. It’s a searing examination of the character’s psychology, with deep insights about the human condition. Highs: Main Characters, Success; Lows: Premise (CanLit, Classics, Fathers and Sons, Psychology, Jungian / Depth Psychology, Mythology)

World of Wonders (Deptford Trilogy 3), Robertson Davies (1975), 90: In this final installment of the Deptford Trilogy, the famed illusionist Magnus Eisengrim bares his soul and tells the true story of his life for the first time. This, I think, is easily the least enjoyable of the trilogy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. My main complaint is that this felt unfocused, as though Davies had three or four books he wanted to write to finish his saga and never settled on any one of them. All of the pieces here are excellent in and of themselves, and there are elements of absolute genius, but I’m not sure it entirely holds together as a work in itself. Content warning for child rape. Highs: Main Characters, Writing, and Settling; Low: Plot (CanLit, Classics, Psychology, Theatre, Identity)

Funny You Should Ask, Elissa Sussman (2022), 85: Ten years ago, Chani Horowitz interviewed up-and-coming actor, Gabe Parker, changing the trajectory of both of their careers for ever. Now she’s back for an encore, but will they get a second chance at love too? This was a fun romance told in two timelines. Highs: Main Characters, Relationships; Lows: Setting (Romance, Hollywood, Fame)

The Tempest, William Shakespeare (1611), 87. An aging magician who rules an almost-deserted Mediterranean island after being exiled from his homeland, seizes an opportunity to set things right. It is impertinent to ‘rate’ or ‘judge’ Shakespeare, but as someone who holds a lot of respect for the Bard without being passionate about him, I found The Tempest to be like a lot of his plays: Pretty hit-and-miss. The writing is, of course, gorgeous; there’s a reason why he’s the standard against which English-language writing is judged. But, as a play, I found it a little underwhelming. Highs: Writing, Premise; Lows: Plot (Theatre, Classics, Shakespeare)

Earth’s the Right Place for Love, Elizabeth Berg (NEW RELEASE, March 21, 2023), 61: This gentle, character-driven story of life in a small, post-Second World War, American town, is an origin story for the beloved protagonist of the Arthur Truluv novels. I have to say that I did not find it particularly effective. Even Berg’s masterful, controlled prose, could not save this from some bizarre plotting choices and an increibly uninteresting setting. Highs: Writing, Main Character, Lows: Setting, Plot (Historical Fiction, Character-driven, Americana, Small Towns, Family, First Love, Prequels)

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet 2), Lois Lowry (2000), 88: Kira is newly orphaned and walks with a limp, either of which would make her vulnerable to being killed in the ruthless society in which she lives. But, saved by a mysterious benefactor, she is tasked with putting her preternatural skills with threads to use in the community’s ceremonial garments. But things aren’t adding up in her too-good-to-be-true new life. This was solid middle grade dystopian fare, with a moving statement on the importance of art to inspire and create new worlds. (Middle Grade, Dystopian Literature, Speculative Fiction, The Arts)

Lumberjanes (Vols 1-2), ND Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters (2014-15), 83: This beloved comic series follows a group of Summer campers as they deal with fantastical encounters and mystery. This was enjoyable enough and has a similar chaotic vibe to Stevenson’s Nimona (which I loved), but didn’t wholly land for me. There were some storytelling choices that would probably appeal to some readers that didn’t work for me and I didn’t find I got to know any of the characters. I enjoyed these two volumes (issues 1-8) but don’t feel the need to continue on. Highs: Setting, Premise; Lows: Characters, Writing (Summer Camp, Mythology, YA, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ2S+)


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