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Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth J. Harvey
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Blackstrap Hawco

by Kenneth J. Harvey

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Showing 4 of 4
At over 800 pages it was too long, but pretty good. I wavered at times in my commitment, and more than several pages were just skimmed. A more judicious pruning by the editor was in order. A gardener’s hand needed, to prune so as to encourage overall healthy growth. Otherwise a book grows lanky and uninteresting.
Yet another in the barrage of Newf-lit. The author refers to it as a “transcompositive narrative”. Ie, a blending of facts and fiction, but so thoroughly mixed it is like a suspension of particles in a slurry of fiction. or something like that. He used Newfoundland historical events as touchstones in the lives of the characters. He touched on lives of different generations over a couple of hundred years in the families of Blackstrap Hawco. Some were so intriguing, especially the Irish immigrants in the 1800s, but he teased us with their lives and then abandoned them, and so abandoned us. We were introduced, made friends, but there were no callbacks. i kept waiting to return to the woman who gave birth to the twins, and to more of the story of the woman whose bastard baby was spirited away and presumably killed, by the too-powerful local priest. But the last half to third of the book returned to a more traditional narrative form, and by now became a story really just about Blackstrap. The author was fatigued by his experiment. So reluctantly we the reader had to go along with it.
His impressionistic style of writing was surprisingly easy to read once you allow yourself to be carried along in it. The style though leaves one with the sense that these characters are more animal than human; they seem almost incapable of intelligent decision-making. They are fatalistic, and abandon their futures and their presents to the powers -- the church, the employers, the wealthy businessmen. When they rebel it is in the way an animal rebels in a trap: it chews off its leg. Well, sadly, this is likely an accurate representation of not just Newfoundlanders but people all over. Families buffeted by external events, seemingly incapable of controlling or influencing those events. And lacking even the initiative or desire to take charge. Because at least this way they have someone to blame, and its not themselves. Or so they think........ ( )
  BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
At over 800 pages it was too long, but pretty good. I wavered at times in my commitment, and more than several pages were just skimmed. A more judicious pruning by the editor was in order. A gardener’s hand needed, to prune so as to encourage overall healthy growth. Otherwise a book grows lanky and uninteresting. Yet another in the barrage of Newf-lit. The author refers to it as a “transcompositive narrative”. Ie, a blending of facts and fiction, but so thoroughly mixed it is like a suspension of particles in a slurry of fiction. or something like that. He used Newfoundland historical events as touchstones in the lives of the characters. He touched on lives of different generations over a couple of hundred years in the families of Blackstrap Hawco. Some were so intriguing, especially the Irish immigrants in the 1800s, but he teased us with their lives and then abandoned them, and so abandoned us. We were introduced, made friends, but there were no callbacks. i kept waiting to return to the woman who gave birth to the twins, and to more of the story of the woman whose bastard baby was spirited away and presumably killed, by the too-powerful local priest. But the last half to third of the book returned to a more traditional narrative form, and by now became a story really just about Blackstrap. The author was fatigued by his experiment. So reluctantly we the reader had to go along with it.His impressionistic style of writing was surprisingly easy to read once you allow yourself to be carried along in it. The style though leaves one with the sense that these characters are more animal than human; they seem almost incapable of intelligent decision-making. They are fatalistic, and abandon their futures and their presents to the powers -- the church, the employers, the wealthy businessmen. When they rebel it is in the way an animal rebels in a trap: it chews off its leg. Well, sadly, this is likely an accurate representation of not just Newfoundlanders but people all over. Families buffeted by external events, seemingly incapable of controlling or influencing those events. And lacking even the initiative or desire to take charge. Because at least this way they have someone to blame, and its not themselves. Or so they think........ ( )
  TheBookJunky | Sep 24, 2011 |
Blackstrap Hawco, by Kenneth J. Harvey, is a mammoth size book. At over 800 pages, it is an epic novel of a Newfoundland family. Harvey uses actual historic events brilliantly to weave the fictitious story of the Hawco family. The story of Blackstrap’s life is tragic. It’s as if he is watching his life unfold without any control over what will happen to him. The story is told from the perspective of different characters in the novel which gives the read a full understanding of the complexity of the family members. It also goes back to the first generation of Hawcos who arrived in Newfoundland. The book is also not told in chronological order. While this might appear to be disconcerting, it works beautifully and only serves to keep the reader more intrigued in how the story actually unfolds. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in the history and culture of Newfoundland or anyone interested in great Canadian fiction. ( )
  MacFly | Feb 28, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
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In 1953, my great-grandfather, Jacob Hawco, faced death on the trapline.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679314296, Hardcover)

Fifteen years in the making, this book is the one Canada’s “heavyweight champ of brash and beautiful literature” was meant to write. An epic masterwork about Newfoundland’s working class, Blackstrap Hawco spans more than a century in gorgeous and widely varied prose, reminding us that even when writing about the degradation of identity and language, Harvey does it magnificently.

Named in a moment of anger, Blackstrap Hawco is heir to an island dominion picked over by its adoptive nation. From the arrivals of the indentured Irish to the Victorian drawing rooms of the English merchants, from the perilous seal hunt to the raucous iron ore mines, from a notorious disaster at sea to the relocation of outport communities, the family legend might be all his people have left to live for. But as Blackstrap Hawco – a novel that will consume you in its dazzling swirl of voices, legends and beautiful hearsay – testifies, a story this haunting, this powerful, might just be enough.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:54 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Named in a moment of anger, raised to endure the tragedy of a people and culture coming undone, Blackstrap Hawco recounts a century of hardship faced by a Newfoundland family.

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