The Innocents

Newfoundland culture is outport culture. My parents were both born and raised in outports. Everybody in Buchans was from an outport. I always say that I didn’t live in an outport, but the outports made me who I am. To try and understand this place, I think, you have to write about outport culture… MICHAEL CRUMMEY

In centuries past, a brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated outport cove on Newfoundland’s northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity.

Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family’s boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to help them survive.

Muddling through the severe round of the seasons, through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.

Maybe it was because I was supposed to be spending five weeks this summer travelling in Nova Scotia – (thank you Covid19 for ruining my holiday plans) I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book featuring this historical insight into Newfoundland and its maritime culture. I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Anne Cater & Random Things Tours  and couldn’t wait to travel vicariously to this beautiful, remote and mysterious part of the world.

sea waves crashing on rocks

This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into the story even when it was a hard read at times due to the harsh and relentless lives that people living in this era had to contend with. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book: that we get to hear about events from such a unique perspective and this really added to the story for me. Evered & Ava’s isolation has had a massive impact on the way that they perceive events and we start to see their naive and sheltered perspective more clearly as the novel unfolds.

I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine these siblings growing up like an Adam & Eve in their own remote and impenetrable ‘Eden’ where their own moral code and sense of self is all they have to navigate with.

houses on hill near body of water during daytime

Even though some of this novel deals with domestic issues and their isolated existence, it does it in an original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. The siblings feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore a historical tale – which I’ve often found in novels which want to represent something that happened in the past. This is a really unique novel which has to be ‘felt’ to be understood. I am in awe of his atmospheric writing that makes you feel the oppressive isolation and drudgery of their life at times and feel like I could almost taste the sea air as I was reading.

Michael Crumney is an intriguing writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel without spoilers, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be intrigued by these unique siblings and the world they create for themselves. It’s not one of these ‘keep looking for the big twist’ stories that people are getting a little bored of now. It is a story filled with tiny details that add up to its sense of atmosphere – things start to accumulate and you’ll not be able to believe you missed them before – and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances.

white and red boat on sea near brown and green mountain during daytime

Michael Crumney is an intriguing writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel without spoilers, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be intrigued by these unique siblings and the world they create for themselves. It’s not one of these ‘keep looking for the big twist’ stories that people are getting a little bored of now. It is a story filled with tiny details that add up to its sense of atmosphere – things start to accumulate and you’ll not be able to believe you missed them before – and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances.

The Innocents asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite our experiences and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as mere constructs – this novel is based on a real story, after all. The bleakness of the tale is an undeniable aspect off their lived experience and because it’s so immersive I found its difficulties very rewarding and couldn’t stop thinking about the rhythm of its narrative.

This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Michael Crumney does next. The idea that life for remote communities can be a lot darker than you might think on the surface and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment about a part of the world that most people don’t know very much abpout at all.

green and brown mountain beside body of water under blue sky during daytime

Buy yourself a copy of The Innocents and discover its remote and hypnotic story for yourself

Writer On The Shelf

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MICHAEL CRUMMEY was born in Buchans, a mining town in the interior of Newfoundland, growing up there and in western Labrador. After thirteen years in self-imposed exile in Ontario, he moved home to Newfoundland in 2000. He is the author of five books of poetry, a book of short stories, and four other celebrated novels, including the Giller prize-nominated River Thieves. He lives in St. John’s.

I was really interested in telling the story of these two children who are completely sheltered from the outside world and sheltered from their own natures…

Part of the reason their story stayed with me was… because I just could not imagine how lonely it must have been for them to deal with that particular part of their own experience… How they would try to make sense of things they have no words for.

They don’t have a word for anything that happens between them as they grow older. As they get older, they become more of a mystery to themselves.
MICHAEL CRUMMEY

*FINALIST FOR THE 2019 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
*FINALIST FOR THE 2019 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S LITERARY AWARD
*FINALIST FOR THE 2019 ROGERS WRITERS’ TRUST FICTION PRIZE
*NATIONAL BESTSELLER*NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2019 BY The Globe and Mail – CBC – Toronto Star – Maclean’s

Crummey’s novel has the capacity to change the way the reader sees the world–Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury Citation

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