The Shipping News by Annie Proulx – A Book Review

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize, so it was obviously held in high esteem by those far wiser than myself.  And I have to admit that I enjoyed it very much. 

Proulx’s a rather fascinating writer.  I’ve read a few of her books now, and I have to say that no two of them struck me as the same.  Her tones, her themes, even her style shifts depending on the subject.  I find this quite commendable.

In The Shipping News, Proulx gives us a story about a suppressed man who moves to Newfoundland with his daughters and aunt.  His lineage originates from that area, and so, in a sense, it was something of a homecoming for him.  He would later find his name was not highly thought of, however.  The story progresses as he deals with acclimating to his new home and job, getting to know his aunt and the indigenous people, and helping to start over with his daughters as they get over the tragedy (or blessing) that prompted them to seek a change in setting.

I suppose this book is an exploration of everyday life within a land that is rarely written about in fiction.  Proulx herself spends much time in Newfoundland, so if anyone were to be an expert to write on it, it would certainly be her.  There is no grand climax, no awe-inspiring resolution.  However, her ending made me smile and instigated a sense of hope for both the people of her story and me.  Perhaps that is the most striking way to conclude a story reflecting true life. 

Much like the people found within her story, her style of writing is very direct, plain, and utterly potent.  At times she drove me insane as she wrote fragment after fragment and ignored basic rules of grammar.  But, the execution proved effective and, by the end of the novel, her style seemed completely appropriate.

I’m guessing it was her study on human emotions and life in Newfoundland, as well as her daringness with language, that brought her the honor of the Pulitzer Prize.  If nothing else, though, I found it insightful and enjoyable, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

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