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The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Shipping News (1993)

by E. Annie Proulx

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,876221354 (3.86)583
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family. Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a "head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips," is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle's Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family's unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives. Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it's easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents). As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph--in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover's knot.… (more)
  1. 00
    Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (sturlington)
    sturlington: Small-town island settings.
  2. 00
    The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (sturlington)
  3. 01
    We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Jannes)
    Jannes: Proulx focuses on one particular and personal fate, Jensen writes about a whole town in the voice of a vague, collective "we". The former places her story in modern-day Newfoundland, the later in 19th and early 20th century Denmark. What they have in common is the ever-present sea, its influence and demands, and how the people that relies on if for sustenance has learned to accept its whims and live with the consequences of a life at sea.… (more)
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    The Custodian of Paradise by Wayne Johnston (sushidog)
  5. 01
    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (rieja)
  6. 01
    The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce (ShelfMonkey)
  7. 12
    The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald (rieja)
  8. 02
    Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad (Othemts)
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1990s (22)
Canada (42)

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» See also 583 mentions

English (211)  Dutch (4)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (219)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
Quoyle is a hack. And not a particularly successful one either. After his aging parents commit a dual suicide, and his unfaithful and nasty wife Pearl takes his two daughters and drops them with some unsavoury characters and after dies in an unfortunate car accident. As his life collapses around him, his aunt suggests that they return to Newfoundland, their ancestral home and where their roots are.

Quoyle and his daughters move into his aunts house, a storm damaged house on Quoyle's Point. He is offered work at the local rag, Gammy Bird, the paper for the town of Killick-Claw. Asked to cover road accidents and the shipping movements in and out of the port, he starts to get the stability that he has not yet had in his life up until now.

Even though it is a small town there is lots going on, and Quoyle finds himself being slowly immersed into the daily goings on. One of his daughters is suffering from nightmares and it is a long while before she feels settled. It is a harsh environment too, a town that is battered regularly by storms and frequently sees icebergs drifting past. As time goes on he slowly uncovers disturbing secrets about his father, other relatives and the character who live around the town.

For a small town they seem to have an amazing amount of bad news, not just the traffic accidents; there is all manner of not nice things going on in the town, but it give Quolye some stories to report and slowly he reintegrates himself back into society, and normal life.

It was quite an enjoyable heartwarming read about the life of a town in Newfoundland. Being a town on the edge of the Atlantic, you get some idea of the isolation and the way that it suffers at the hands of the weather in winter. Thought that the character development was reasonable too, Quoyle comes from being a hollow core of a person who suffered at the hands of his late wife, to a man of some standing in another community through the course of the book. 3.5 stars overall I think. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
it's so funny how different the exact same book can be when read by the exact same reader. (well, maybe that's it, right? i'm not the same reader 11 years later.) the first 50 (? 75? 100?) pages were tough for me. probably not as tough as last time, but i really struggled with her writing. stylistically she writes in two different ways in the book. one is traditional and she does it really well, with beautiful turns of phrase and great imagery. the other is choppy and short truncated sentences that are technically not sentences because they're often without verbs. it makes it feel like the tenses are inconsistent but i realized at some point that it's not, it's just lacking in context because there aren't verbs to ground you. the intermingling of these two different types of writing doesn't make sense to me and really threw me off when i was reading. i think it's, in large part, what kept me from understanding or liking the book at all the first time around. this time i was more able to set my annoyance aside, and at some point it stopped bothering me. (although i don't feel like the rough sentences were as prevalent later in the book. that seems like it can't be true, though, so i must have gotten used to it this time.... looking back through the beginning of the book, the writing really does feel different. maybe she's smoothing it out as quoyle's life starts to make more sense and smooth out, too? because it definitely got easier for me to read as i went on, and i definitely don't like the way it's written early on.) the other thing i didn't love about her writing is how many words i had to look up. nearly every page had something i went to the dictionary for, and often - often! - the words weren't even there. so many of them were unnecessary (to me, anyway, so maybe i'm missing something) and more conventional words could have been used. eventually i just stopped and got what i could from the context. it was too much, it interrupted the reading too much in a book that was already slow and hard to read early on. and sometimes i had no idea what she meant, even after looking up the words i wasn't familiar with. ex: "Clock hands leapt to pellucid evenings." or just strange ways of saying things that stops you or makes you hiccup over the words. ex: "...freckles like chopped grass on a wet dog." i did love the way she had quoyle narrate things with newspaper headlines. that was excellent each time she did it.

as to the story, which i remembered literally nothing of, this time around i really appreciate it. quoyle and his struggle to know himself and find his place. it's really quite beautiful. so many stories that i've read about small towns in new england and north are so insular and unaccepting of anyone who isn't born there. in this case they embrace quoyle and his girls immediately, although his family comes from there so maybe that's why. but i loved how they so readily brought him in, which felt different to me. i love how real his want was, his desire to be worthy of the life he wanted to live. the secondary characters are all fantastic, each and every one.

(also, good lord, how could anyone live up there??? so much snow and cold and wind and fish and drowning and sexual violence. that last is everywhere but it was mentioned so often in this book, and kept surprising me when it was.)

"The house meant something to the aunt. Did that bind him? The coast around the house seemed beautiful to him. But the house was wrong. Had always been wrong, he thought. Dragged by human labor across miles of ice, the outcasts straining against the ropes and shouting curses at the godly mob. Winched onto the rock. Groaning. A bound prisoner straining to get free. The humming of the taut cables. That vibration passed into the house, made it seem alive. That was it, in the house he felt he was inside a tethered animal, dumb but feeling. Swallowed by the shouting past."

"That's the weather we get now. Storm, then cold, then warm. A yo-yo, up and down, coldest, warmest, strongest wind, highest tide. Like some Yank advertising company in charge of it all."

"...it was the outstretched hands, the giving, that mattered."

(3.5 stars) as i'm left with liking it even though the beginning was more like 1.5 or 2 stars at the most. it got better and better as it went along.

from feb 2009: there are some nice parts to this book, but i can't give it more stars because from beginning to end it was a chore to read. the first 100 pages in particular were just so hard to get through, and although it got easier, it never got easy. her style was interesting - some of her sentences were really choppy, missing either nouns or verbs, which i found really weird, because it wasn't consistent. she didn't use descriptors much at all, which might have matched the starkness of the story and the environment. some good things in there, but this was so hard for me to get through. (1 star) ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Mar 1, 2020 |
So beautifully written.
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
. ( )
  Adammmmm | Sep 10, 2019 |
Great story about a small town in Canada.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
It has been – astonishingly – fifteen years since I read the novel but its memory is undimmed, its glorious set pieces still vivid before my eyes.
In E. Annie Proulx's vigorous, quirky novel "The Shipping News," set in present-day Newfoundland, there are indeed a lot of drownings. The main characters are plagued by dangerous undercurrents, both in the physical world and in their own minds. But the local color, ribaldry and uncanny sorts of redemption of Ms. Proulx's third book of fiction keep the reader from slipping under, into the murk of loss.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proulx, E. AnnieAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"In a knot of eight crossings, which is about the average-size knit. there are 256 different 'over-and-under' arrangements possible. . . Make only one change in this 'over and under' sequence and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result."

Quoyle: A coil of rope

"A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only. It is made on deck so that it may be walked on if necessary."

In the old days a love-sick sailor might send the object of his affections a length of fishline loosely tied in a true-lover's knot. If the knot as sent back as it came the relationship was static. If the knot returned home snugly drawn up the passion was reciprocated. But if the knot was capsized - tacit advice to ship out.
"The strangle knot will hold a coil well . . . It is first tied loosely and then worked snug."

"Cast Away, to be forced from a ship by a disaster."

For Jon, Gillis and Morgan
First words
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.
Walking keeps you smart.
fried bologna isn't bad.
Desire reversed to detestation like a rubber glove turned inside out.
We run a car wreck photo every week, whether we have a car wreck or not. That's our golden rule.
In Wyoming they name girls Skye, in Newfoundland it's Wavey.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the get-go, Quoyle is a loser. Not only is he physically unattractive with a "great damp loaf of a body," but he is also not too bright. His father despises him, and his brother, constantly taunts him. He drifts from job to job, never able to keep one for more than a few months. He gets married, only to have his wife sell their two daughters to a child pornographer and leave him. The Shipping News describes Quoyle's psychological and spiritual rebirth. Left with two children to raise after he rescues them, and no job, he returns to Newfoundland, the land of his ancestors. A sometime newspaper reporter, he gets a job reporting on shipping news with a local publication, and becomes a minor celebrity. Gradually he is transformed into a loving father and a valued neighbor.

When Quoyle's two-timing wife meets her just deserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons   and the unpredictable forces of nature and society - he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.
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