“Newfoundland seemed too severe and formidable, too provocative, too extravagant and singular and harrowing to be real. He half expected to never lay eyes on the place again, as if it didn’t exist outside the stories in his head.”
Galore follows the interconnected lives of families on the Newfoundland coast from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. The story of this harsh land, and the development of its towns and communities, is shown through individual triumphs and tragedies and prejudices, which weave together to build the history of an area. But it’s more than that. The history is woven with folk stories and wives’ tales; ghosts pay their daily penance at the fireside, men are born from the belly of a whale, and the residents of Paradise Deep seem to accept it all in their stride, as a necessary part of their strange land.
There are interesting ideas addressed: the tension of the wilderness vs. civilization; the old country vs. the new being built from its broken hull; the impossibility of happiness in love; and the inability to escape inheritances of all kinds. Intricately plotted, with interwoven flashbacks and flash-forwards, it is charming and strange, though I don’t know how much attachment I have to the characters. The character relationships are very complex, so you have to pay close attention and frankly it can be a bit distracting – I’m pulled out of the story to try to remember how 150 years’ worth of characters are related. The strange cadence of Crummey’s language is at turns lovely and off-putting, reflecting, I suppose, the nature of the story.
I was compelled by this book, and I liked it, but I would not say that I loved it. Unfortunately, it is ultimately as bleak and beautiful as the landscape Crummey so clearly loves.