Tag: Newfoundland

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Posted September 8, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Sweetland by Michael CrummeyTitle: Sweetland (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Crummey
Published: Corsair, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Moses Sweetland is a grumpy old retired lighthouse keeper with strong ties to his home and town. For twelve generations, Sweetland’s family have made this Newfoundland town their home; in fact the town is named Sweetland.  However now the fishing industry has dried up and the town is falling apart. The Canadian government has decided it is more cost effective to offer resettlement packages to everyone in Sweetland than try to maintain the town. There is one condition, everyone has to accept the offer for resettlement or no one will get a payout.

This novel was picked for my in-real-life book club, and it is not a book I would have picked up on my own. I started off not loving this novel; I wanted the author to explore all the secondary characters a little more. I thought they were all far more interesting and I could not see why the focus was on Moses Sweetland so much. I knew there was the exploration into the heritage but I thought that a look into a range of characters in this little town would make for a far more interesting novel.

I obviously did not understand what Michael Crummey was trying to do with Sweetland but it was not long before I was fully aboard. The book took a turn and there was something different happening within the novel that I was not expected. If I did some research into the premise of Sweetland, I would have discovered the plot but I like to go into a book not knowing. What I loved about this novel is the way it explores isolation and being haunted by memoires and the past.

I should explain that Moses Sweetland refused to leave Newfoundland and when everyone else left he was stuck in Sweetland alone. As a retired lighthouse keeper he thought he was prepared to live a life or solitude and isolation but that is nothing like living alone. Michael Crummey did a wonderful job exploring the idea of living alone and the descent into madness. Think Cast Away, except done well; sure, that movie did portray madness pretty well but Sweetland is on a whole new level.

I think the way Sweetland surprised me, really affected me more than the book itself. I really appreciated the way Michael Crummey wrote this book and really enjoyed all the themes that he explored. I need to read some more of Crummey’s novels, I think he is a bit of a hidden talent that needs more exposure. I hope all his other books are just as great as Sweetland and I plan to find out soon.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Posted June 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

TransAtlantic by Colum McCannTitle: TransAtlantic (Goodreads)
Author: Colum McCann
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann comes an astonishing new novel, TransAtlantic. Through a series of narratives that span 150 years and two continents comes this magnificent and somewhat ambitious novel. From the first TransAtlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland to the American senator crossing the ocean in search for lasting peace in Ireland, this is part fiction part historical literary achievement.

I’ve often struggled with the novels that are made up from a collection of short stories as well as the ones that blend fact and fiction. A Visit from the Goon Squad was a widely talked about book for having a chapter dedicated to a different person but I didn’t think much of it, while The Imperfectionists did the same thing a whole lot better. Now we have TransAtlantic, which I’m not sure if it was the fact that I read this while flying but this really stands out about the rest. Then you have these novels that draw a lot from history.  A Treacherous Likeness was a disaster; Z: The Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald I thought missed too much of her later years; Burial Rites was the exception but only because it was such an obscure historical event I didn’t know about it. Yet TransAtlantic seems to be standing out above these novels as well.

The first chapter looks at the incredible story of the first flight across the Atlantic in 1919, an epic feat in human history by all accounts. I felt like Colum McCann handled this so masterfully that I wasn’t concerned about the historical facts, I was absorbed in the tension facing these two men as they battle against the odds to make it.

Yet this isn’t just about the history of flight across the Atlantic Ocean, this focuses a lot on Ireland. McCann is an Irish born author so you expect to see Irish history within this book but he is also coming from a journalist background and it really shows. This novel takes a look at slavery and conflict within Ireland making this an interesting look at the significance of TransAtlantic flight.

Colum McCann weaves a tapestry of rich and powerful short stories that lavish us with this literary piece. From the get go I felt drawn into the novel, the short sentences seem to keep me reading at such a fast pace. While I had to get off one plane and board another half way through this book, I was so sucked in I felt like asking the pilot to take the long way just so it wouldn’t interrupt my reading.

Key historical figures within TransAtlantic include Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and Teddy Brown and George Mitchell. The novel both encouraged me to learn more about these people and while giving me a new insight of both TransAtlantic flight and historical events within Ireland. On reflection I can pinpoint exactly what worked well and what didn’t, the different elements of this novel all seemed to work together to hide whatever flaws I was looking for.

TransAtlantic was both an addictive read and a stunning piece of literary fiction. While it wasn’t perfect, I’m not sure how to fault this book, I picked the right book for the right time and it was an enjoyable experience. I’ve not read Colum McCann before, in fact I hadn’t heard of him, but you can be sure I’ll be tracking more of his novels down.