The Shipping News (E. Annie Proulx)

 

We have now returned to school and are back into the swing of things which means more writing for me!  At the end of my last entry, I wrote that I was reading The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, and I am happy to say that I loved it!  I had watched the excellent film adaptation years ago and, having remembered enjoying that immensely, I decided to read the novel this summer.  The book is different in style from many novels and I found it a little unusual to begin with:  the sentences are very short but so descriptive that they are far more effective for the nature of this story. Each word is significant and each sentence conveys the difficulties that Quoyle and the extensive cast of characters face in their daily lives.

Early on we learn that Quoyle has been told that he’s no good at anything and he certainly seems to have grown into that way of thinking of himself.  He cannot believe it when something good happens to him, when he falls in love, he even accepts things when his wife rejects him for a host of casual relationships.  It is when tragedy strikes that he comes into contact with an aunt he hasn’t known previously, and the events that quickly unfold take him and his daughter, Bunny, to a new future, in Newfoundland, hundreds of miles north from New York State where the story begins.  This is when his life takes a turn for the better as the aunt takes him back to where his family came from and a completely new future is on his horizon.  Quoyle experiences friendships and people caring for him in a way that has been totally alien to him until now and he and his family are welcomed into the town.  He appears to be permanently surprised by this.  The description of  Newfoundland is so expertly written that the reader gets a real sense of place and we are touched by both the cruelty and the kindness of human nature.

I watched the film again last night and did enjoy it again but felt it a shame that some of the central characters crucial to Quoyle’s discovery that his life is worthwhile, valuable and meaningful are omitted.  The scenery and cinematography convey the sense of remoteness of the place, and how its inhabitants have come to care for one another through facing adversities and the harshness of the climate.  The acting was superb and each actor well-chosen for their particular role.

 

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Great House (Nicole Krauss)

Cover of "Great House: A Novel"
Cover of Great House: A Novel

At our Reading Group meeting on Tuesday 13th March, we discussed Nicole Krauss‘s latest novel Great House.

We had another lovely meeting  after school which, (I think!), was enjoyed by all.  I was the only person who confessed to liking the book which I have yet to finish, but we still had a lively debate about how each individual story tied in with all the others to make a whole.  We felt that we almost needed a notebook to hand during our reading of this book in order that we could record all the details as we went along and thereby remember and make the connections!  Even though most said that they didn’t like it, we still talked for a good amount of time about this book.  I had chosen it, having loved Krauss’s first book (The History of Love), as I’d wanted to read it a while ago, but I’ll open the floor for everyone to choose in the future!  Some of us felt that with this book and The Finkler Question from our first meeting,  we were on the outside looking in on this world that we do not belong to.  This said, there did seem to be a consensus that whilst the book appeared self-indulgent, it was well-written and the author has skilfully employed the English language to tell her story.

Krauss’s novel tells the tale of a desk, which passes through the homes of various people at different periods of the twentieth century.  It crosses continents as we follow its journey from Budapest to London, from there to Chile, then to New York and finally to Israel and in travelling this journey with the desk, we learn how the lives of those in whose care it lies, intertwine and connect. I feel that it is a great piece of writing but the wonderful thing about Reading Group meetings is the sharing of ideas and how we can each add to the discussion with our own interpretations.