From prizewinning author Michael Crummey comes a spellbinding story of survival in which a brother and sister confront the limits of human endurance and their own capacity for loyalty and forgiveness.
A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated 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 keep them.
Muddling though 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.
The Innocents is richly imagined and compulsively readable, a riveting story of hardship and survival, and an unflinching exploration of the bond between brother and sister. By turns electrifying and heart breaking, it is a testament to the bounty and barbarity of the world, to the wonders and strangeness of our individual selves. The remote landscape feels violent and dangerous, the perfect backdrop to the lives of the children on the edge of them the known world. The writing evokes a remarkable and beautiful world, while exposing the flip side of the world they live in, the brutal weather, the mind numbing isolation and the reality of life on these remote outposts, all adding a sense of supressed tension and
The Innocents by Michael Crummey is the story of a brother and sister orphaned and living on an the isolated Newfoundland Coastline. Life is hard and survival takes both resilience and courage. Growing up they have little knowledge of the outside world and as the title suggests they are innocent of that and their own needs and feelings, in very authentic ways.
The story is about how innocence and loyalty to each other sustains them, but also creates tensions and often painful moments for both the characters and the reader. Such moments, the writing and the backdrop creating a story of extraordinary power.
I think for me it’s brilliance comes from the remarkable way the writer explores how innocence is maintained, because the children are largely isolated from the world at large. How they seem unknowing and removed from the ways society would shape their development and perceptions of each other as they grow and become adults. With sensitivity the writer also explores how such innocence, sinlessness, despite being isolated from the corruption of ‘civilisation’, is but a hairs breath away from something more tainted,
Parts of this novel are not an easy read, he explores friendship, love, need and sexual awakening, but it is without doubt a dazzling and sensitive exploration of what makes us human. It is beautifully written and haunting, in that I can’t imagine ever not being able to conjure in my mind the lives of these children and the coastline that live in.
The Innocents feels dazzling not just because of the power of the characterisation and story, but also the vibrancy of the setting and how Michael Crummey brings it to life. It felt as if the cold was seeping of the page and the mountains seemed to fill the horizon as I read. It felt like I was stepping out of the real world and into the brutal beauty of The Innocents Newfoundland setting. You could feel how the brutal beauty that surrounded them, was capable of not just protecting them, but also destroying both their lives and their innocence. The winds buffeting them, did so to me, so much so that looking up at the calm sky around me, left me feeling disjointed from reality. It felt like walking within a world where innocence was forced to transform itself to stand any chance of survival.
This is a novel where character, landscape and story all have equal billing and they all dazzle to form a work of extraordinary beauty.
About the author
MICHAEL CRUMMEY is an award-winning poet and storyteller. Crummey was born in Buchans, a mining town in the interior of Newfoundland. He is the bestselling author of four critically acclaimed novels, River Thieves, The Wreckage, Galore, and Sweetland, as well as five collections of poetry. His novels have won or been shortlisted for many prizes, including the Giller prize, the Governor-General’s award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the IMPAC Award, and his books have sold over 225,000 copies in North America. He lives in St John’s, Newfoundland.I
The author can be followed on Twitter @MichaelCrummey