The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

“Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.
Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds.
His jobs: distributor of vending machines candy, all-night clerk in a convenience store, a third-rate newspaperman. At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place that he had never been nor thought to go.”

Okay. So obviously this was very well-written and sad and beautiful, and it certainly deserved to win the Pulitzer prize. I can at least appreciate that much, and I’ll admit that I didn’t dislike the book, particularly. I enjoyed reading it, for the most part. But there is only one word that I think can fully describe this book, and that word is BLEAK.

Everything about this book is bleak. The setting is bleak, the people are bleak, their houses and their food is bleak (they eat fried bologna for God’s sake), every life and every situation is bleak. Which is fine, if that’s your thing. Personally, I don’t especially enjoy reading about miserable people being miserable in a miserable place. It’s a nice book, I suppose. It’s just not something I want to revisit.

Verdict: two out of five stars

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