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Shipping News: A Novel (Scribner Classics) Hardcover – Deluxe Edition, May 10, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

In this touching and atmospheric novel set among the fishermen of Newfoundland, Proulx tells the story of Quoyle. From all outward appearances, Quoyle has gone through his first 36 years on earth as a big schlump of a loser. He's not attractive, he's not brilliant or witty or talented, and he's not the kind of person who typically assumes the central position in a novel. But Proulx creates a simple and compelling tale of Quoyle's psychological and spiritual growth. Along the way, we get to look in on the maritime beauty of what is probably a disappearing way of life. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Proulx has followed Postcards , her story of a family and their farm, with an extraordinary second novel of another family and the sea. The fulcrum is Quoyle, a patient, self-deprecating, oversized hack writer who, following the deaths of nasty parents and a succubus of a wife, moves with his two daughters and straight-thinking aunt back to the ancestral manse in Killick-Claw, a Newfoundland harbor town of no great distinction. There, Quoyle finds a job writing about car crashes and the shipping news for The Gammy Bird , a local paper kept afloat largely by reports of sexual abuse cases and comical typographical errors. Killick-Claw may not be perfect, but it is a stable enough community for Quoyle and Co. to recover from the terrors of their past lives. But the novel is much more than Quoyle's story: it is a moving evocation of a place and people buffeted by nature and change. Proulx routinely does without nouns and conjunctions--"Quoyle, grinning. Expected to hear they were having a kid. Already picked himself for godfather"--but her terse prose seems perfectly at home on the rocky Newfoundland coast. She is in her element both when creating haunting images (such as Quoyle's inbred, mad and mean forbears pulling their house across the ice after being ostracized by more God-fearing folk) and when lyrically rendering a routine of gray, cold days filled with cold cheeks, squidburgers, fried bologna and the sea.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Scribner Classics
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Classic Edition edition (May 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485791X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684857916
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (641 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Annie Proulx's The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award for Fiction, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She is the author of two other novels: Postcards, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Accordion Crimes. She has also written two collections of short stories, Heart Songs and Other Stories and Close Range. In 2001, The Shipping News was made into a major motion picture. Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming and Newfoundland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

203 of 212 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Let me state at the outset that I am a Newfoundlander. I spent the first 38 years of my life on the island, cursing and loving the fickle weather, the stark landscape and the smothering isolation.
Concurrent with life in such a place is a certain xenophobia. Part pride, part fear, it tends to rear its head when someone from "away" decides to tell us about ourselves.
Annie Proulx is a "come-from-away", an outsider who came and settled for a time in Newfoundland, then went away and brought forth "The Shipping News".
By that time I'd moved off the island, like so many of my fellow Newfoundlanders. I left by choice to pursue a career opportunity, but it was still a wrenching experience. Thousands of others have had no choice but to leave, with the collapse of the fishery and the ensuing economic hardships. For them, leaving Newfoundland is a heart-breaking decision, because their loyalty to family and to the place is as fierce as a November gale.
A few years after I heard about a curious new novel written by an American and set in Newfoundland. So I read it.
As Quoyle made his inexorable if apprehensive way to Newfoundland I found myself wondering whether I would recognize Annie Proulx's version of my native province.
Not only did I recognize it, I came to know it better. She had found the poetry of the place, the brutal indifference of sea and stone, the soft light and the muffling fog. And the voices of the people.
Not a word rang false.
"The Shipping News" is rich in atmosphere, populated by people I know. It is a work fine in its observation and true in its telling. It's what Newfoundlanders would call a "fine yarn".
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90 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's always fun to reread a novel that was a favorite ten years ago and discover that it's just as much fun the second time around. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1994, The Shipping News is set primarily in Newfoundland, the ancestral home of Quoyle, a widower from New York, and his aunt, Agnis Hamm, who return to Newfoundland with Quoyle's two young daughters to try to create new lives. Quoyle, with minimal experience as a newspaper man in New York, gets a job at the local newspaper, the Gammy Bird, at Killick Claw, recording the weekly shipping news, doing features on visiting ships, and covering local car wrecks. Agnis continues her business of upholstering ship and yacht interiors, and Quoyle's little girls settle into school and daycare.

As Quoyle and Agnis become friends with their fiercely independent and often quirky neighbors, their own pasts gradually unfold for the reader, and as they face the stark challenges of their new lives in wintery Newfoundland, they begin to understand more fully who they are and to recognize what is important in their lives. As Quoyle, who is still coming to terms with the death of his flagrantly unfaithful wife, Petal Bear, gains respect from his colleagues for his work at the paper and from his neighbors for his strength of character, he also begins to gain some self-respect. Agnis's departure from Newfoundland many years ago was the result of a terrible trauma, and upon her return she finds unique ways to put some of that trauma to rest.

Life in Killick Claw is often bleak, and its population must deal with violent storms, winters lasting six months, few connections to the outside world, and sudden death at sea, all of which Proulx describes in vivid and moving passages.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence E. Wilson on July 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
I just finished this--one of those novels to which I've been meaning to get to for about five years now. The story of a man named Quoyle, forced by circumstance to return to his ancestral land, writing for a small local paper...Trying to fit back in, as no outsider would be able to, learning the language of boats, local cuisine (squidburgers?!?), superstition and journalism. I really, really liked this book. A distinct narrative voice, a complex plot-matrix (nothing so simple as a plot-line), and the whole thing well and truly anchored in a place. A concrete and vivid depiction of a Newfoundland seaside town. And the quotations beginning each chapter were nice, too, mostly from The Ashley Book of Knots, with directions for tying--and by chapter's end, I picked up each knot's metaphor. I'd read Annie Proulx's short story collection, Heartsongs, and enjoyed that, too. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to this really fine novel.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on April 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's hard to describe this novel. You can give a very vanilla summary on paper about a man named Quoyle who leaves his upstate New York life after his father's death, blah blah blah but that wouldn't take into account Proulx's very unique, at times perplexing, writing style (it's only perplexing until you receive little clues along the way that better explain the characters and situations), the odd names for the characters that are all nouns and adjectives, the cold locations and the fact that Proulx does nothing to make Newfoundland sound like a nice, cozy place when so many other writers, given the chance, may have tried to make it sound like Mayberry on the North Atlantic. You can take it or leave it, the island won't really miss you if you don't visit.

Those readers expecting a nice little travelogue about life in Newfoundland should look elsewhere: "The Shipping News" fully depicts the tough life that people experience on that great expanse of rock, not sparing us from tales of abuse and incest. But Proulx also shows how people in those same small communities do come together when needed and that the bonds of friendship are at times stronger than the bloodlines of family.

For those who only know Proulx from "Brokeback Mountain", this book will further acquaint them with her unique writing style and depictions of the "have nots" of society. Once you are deep enough into Quoyle's story, the pages fly by and I finished this book wishing it had been even longer. A one of a kind read.
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