FICTION

The Innocents

Doubleday. Nov. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780385545426. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385545433.
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In this fifth novel from Giller Prize short-listed Crummey, Evered and Ada live in a shack with their parents in an isolated cove somewhere along the coast of Newfoundland. When their parents die, the children are left to fend for themselves, and with barely a notion of the outside world, they struggle tenaciously to rise above the deprivation suddenly thrust upon them. The solitude binds them together, but it quickly becomes clear that some sort of intervention is needed for them to carry on. Initially, that intervention comes in the form of a ship called The Hope that has always stopped twice yearly in the cove to exchange supplies for dried fish the family has prepared. As the years pass, the children’s isolation and cramped quarters present an entirely different set of challenges.
VERDICT Similar to Crummey’s Sweetland as it delves into the minutiae of life on a northerly island, this novel can be tough going at times, but fans of narrative travel writing will appreciate Crummey’s descriptive flourishes. The relentless bleakness is alleviated by the cinematic depiction of the surrounding wilderness, with Crummey’s prose recalling that of Jim Crace in its strange, archaic terminology and sense of timelessness, and the conclusion is strangely moving.

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