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The Shipping News

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Alternate Cover Edition ISBN 0671510053 (ISBN13: 9780671510053)

At thirty-six, Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman, is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just deserts. He retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As three generations of his family cobble up new lives, Quoyle confronts his private demons--and the unpredictable forces of nature and society--and begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.

A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family, The Shipping News shows why E. Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.
(back cover)

337 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Annie Proulx

110 books2,769 followers
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive critical acclaim and went on to be nominated for a leading eight Academy Awards, winning three of them. (However, the movie did not win Best Picture, a situation with which Proulx made public her disappointment.) She won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her first novel, Postcards.

She has written most of her stories and books simply as Annie Proulx, but has also used the names E. Annie Proulx and E.A. Proulx.

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5 stars
45,244 (31%)
4 stars
52,925 (36%)
3 stars
31,487 (21%)
2 stars
9,939 (6%)
1 star
3,969 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,924 reviews
Profile Image for Nathan.
46 reviews43 followers
January 13, 2008
This book snuck up on me. Tricky tricky. It started out interesting enough. Proulx's writing style is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. I found the book initially to be a relaxing solace on my commute home after a busy day of work, soley because of its use of language and setting. But I hated the characters. All of them. Quoyle, a big, damp loaf of a man, as Proulx describes him, is the definition of pathetic. His daughters are brats. And his wife Petal is a two-dimensional device created solely as a catalyst for the story to come. In the beginning it felt a little forced. Then at some point in the second half, the book went from a nice little read to a ferocious page-turner, and I still am not sure how it became so compelling. There was no melodramatic conflict introduced. No secret codes to be found in paintings. Instead, Proulx builds her momentum slowly, slowly, taking you deeper into the lives of these characters, who started out so hard, unattractive, broken, and nasty. The thing of it is, they start to feel so honest. Before you know it, their presence is comforting. I found I wanted to be with them. Wanted to be in the boat with Quoyle. Wanted to see the green house. Wanted to go to the Christmas Pageant. Wanted to eat flipper pie with him and the girls. Wanted to welcome Aunt home.

Quoyle finds redemption from a place that itself is bleak, full of hardship, and dying. I found this to be poetic and strangely uplifting. Its sort of the anti-coming of age story. No beautiful starry-eyed twentysomething trotting off to exotic locations or big cities here. Instead, the story of a middle-aged man who hates himself even more than he hates his circumstance, moving back to his modest roots, finding a lot of darkness in the places he comes from. He watches people fall on hard times and move away, endures monotony, deep cold, harsh storms and odd, forced relationships. And in the midst of it he finds friendship, love, and his own self-worth. I just thought it was beautiful. The scene near the end in which Quoyle prepares to attend the wake for one of his close friends, looks at his gigantic naked body in the mirror, and feels a surge of joy to be such an honest and satisfying moment of redemption. This dying place brings him to life, and eventually, for the first time in his life, he finds joy and peace. And he finds it in himself, not in the circumstances around him.

It snuck up on me. I didn't realize until it was too late how hard I had fallen for this lot.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,200 followers
August 17, 2023
A love story of a single father, a newspaper reporter, who returns to Newfoundland to live in an ancestral home and meets a local woman. Everyone in the present is haunted in some way by victims claimed by nature in the past, usually by the sea.


The plot revolves around ordinary characters - ordinary, quirky Newfies, that is. They are overweight or pock-marked or not quite attractive, in that left-behind kind of way They are all damaged in some way, usually by the loss of loved ones to nature.

But the characters are small specks against the giant backdrop of rock, sea and storms. I'll call this an "environmental novel" of Newfoundland. Man and woman against nature. We think of an island as the intersection of land and water - two systems - but it's really the intersection of three great earth systems - land, water and atmosphere.


Here we see Mother Nature in all her glory inflicting herself on the puny inhabitants of this rock coast. Wind, rain, waves, snow, storms, ice, seafoam, icebergs are really the main characters.


Shipping News is the antithesis of the beach book. This is one for a good winter read by the fireplace or under the electric blanket.

Photos of Newfoundland:
Top from CBC on Facebook
middle from expedia.com
bottom from newfoundlandlabrador.com

[Pictures added 4/11/22; edited for typos 8/17/23]
Profile Image for Leigh Bardugo.
Author 71 books155k followers
January 11, 2008
Easily one of my favorites. I did all I could to ignore the film when it came out and I recommend that you do the same. Book can be a bit hard to get into, but it's worth it. Somehow Proulx creates a landscape and a love story that are both sweet and stark.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books585 followers
May 7, 2019
“The Shipping News” is E. Annie Proulx’s second novel, published back in 1993. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She has a unique voice and her command of language is impressive. The strength of this book is her prose and strong sense of place. She writes in short staccato sentences, sometimes even using incomplete phrases, but with such inventive and fitting language. She seems to have a vast vocabulary but uses rare words sparingly. Her unpretentious talent is more from finding creative uses of everyday words. This talent is fitting for a story that largely takes place in a sparse, inhospitable place, with simple characters and results in real depth underneath these humble characters and locals.

The story follows Quoyle, a hulk of a man, who’s life begins with dysfunction and tragedy. He is a man adrift in upstate New York, deadened from abuse and ill treatment. The only positive thing he receives from his early life and broken marriage to an unfaithful and dreadful wife, is two daughters. An Aunt, Angis Hamm, convinces Quoyle to return to his ancestral home in Newfoundland where he finds work on the local newspaper. This is where the story really finds solid ground with Proulx deftly describing the local culture, language, and harsh climate of Newfoundland.

If there is a weakness in this book, it’s that the striking language, and intriguing side observations tended to distract me from the story line. There were moments where I became lost in the story and needing to backtrack or accept that I was lost for a bit, until I found enough clues to navigate back to familiar waters. While several key characters were fully formed, many of the secondary characters were one dimensional and never took shape in my mind. However, the strength of the prose and the rich setting were enough to keep me engaged throughout the entire story. There was just enough struggle and heartbreak to drive the story and we see real change in Quoyle.

I finished “The Shipping News” feeling that Proulx is a better writer than character builder and story teller. But I still believe she’s a talent and this is an important work. There is such great connection between her language skills and the setting and people of this book. The desolate location, angry ocean, and gritty town feel like the best, most recognizable character in the book, if that makes sense. Worthy of its acclaim and awards, I give it four and a half stars, rounded to five. An artistic tale of small triumphs and personal growth perched in the richly layered backdrop of a seaside northern town.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,648 followers
February 27, 2019
During the years that I was the manager of a business, I had the wonderful good fortune to have on staff many people originally from Newfoundland. One aspect that I found fascinating is the similarities between that relatively small ‘rock’ and my holiday in southwest England many years ago. In England, I noticed that accents and the way certain things were said changed about every five miles. The same is true with Newfoundland. Definitions and phrases are different depending on where people lived. The most interesting part is that even though they would use different terms for the same things, they could still understand each other! Well, it’s all English after all.

This story follows a family from New York to Newfoundland where Quoyle’s family is from originally. His Aunt travels with the family and is looking forward to a new start with Quoyle and his two daughters in the place she had left behind nearly 50 years before.

The writing is very different and interesting. While they are in their small town in New York, the sentences are terse, choppy – very few articles and no conjunctions. Tight, compressed sentences that reflected their tight, compressed existence.

When they arrive at their destination, everything changes – the sentences gradually grow and expand. There are poetic turns of phrase mingled with the mangled English of the Newfoundlanders. Quoyle, a would-be journalist starts to turn out interesting articles for the newspaper whose owner still goes out fishing whenever he can.

I was enthralled with the people I met while reading and when this family saga ended - of loves lost and found; of careers begun, stalled, and begun again; of friendships and warmth and caring; of dark times and sad times and cruel times and joyful times – when it all came to an end, I felt I would give anything for a few more (like 10 or 20) chapters, even though the ending is perfect.

This novel won several prizes, including both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. It is always a pleasure to me when a book I enjoy so much is given accolades and recognition, and this one is a perfect example.
Profile Image for Candi.
622 reviews4,716 followers
May 10, 2021
This was one of the first twenty books I added to my to-read shelf here on Goodreads nearly eight years ago. Along the way, I somehow acquired not just one but two copies of this Pulitzer prize winning novel. Either my memory of what I own failed me, or I really wanted to read this. In any case, it was high time I grabbed one of those copies from my bookshelf! Besides, it’s so well loved, I was sure to be wild about it as well. I’m sorry to say that something went wrong here, friends. While I did respect Proulx’s work, I’m not able to write a gushing review of it! I’m kind of stumped to explain exactly what happened.

“Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.”

I’m all for the everyman or everywoman story. These are the kind of characters who appear to live rather ordinary lives; nothing flashy about these people. Kent Haruf and Elizabeth Strout write some of the best, in my opinion. John Williams’s Stoner comes to mind immediately as well. There’s a quality to their writing that makes me feel as if there is indeed something remarkable about these quiet folks after all. Their humanity shines through. I just didn’t feel it here, and I’m having difficulty pointing out why. Perhaps it’s all due to the writing style? Much of this novel is written in fragmented, choppy sentences - the sort your former high school English teacher would have gleefully marked up with the dreaded red pen in hand. Not that I mind this unconventional approach as a rule. I felt it lacked a kind of warmth here that would have been the perfect counterbalance to the stormy, frigid atmosphere of the Newfoundland setting.

“At last the end of the world, a wild place that seemed poised on the lip of the abyss. No human sign, nothing, no ship, no plane, no animal, no bird, no bobbing trap marker nor buoy. As though he stood alone on the planet. The immensity of sky roared at him and instinctively he raised his hands to keep it off. Translucent thirty-foot combers the color of bottles crashed onto stone, coursed bubbles into a churning lake of milk shot with cream.”

The setting is what truly stole the show for me entirely – that and the description of the old homestead, going back generations through the Quoyles, a family with a rather colorful, infamous history. Newfoundland is on my long list of places to visit someday. Proulx’s powerful descriptions went a long way in putting some stunning images in my mind’s eye. I wish that more of the plot had transpired at the old house. It was to this home that the protagonist, Quoyle, had fled with his two little girls and an aunt after misadventure and catastrophe struck. There was a delicious sense of foreboding whenever the house was described – I love it when a place becomes nearly like a living and breathing entity. My wish was not to be fully granted, however. A bit of a disappointment, I admit. I would have happily spent many more days beneath that nightmarish roof. I wanted more of this:

“The house was heavy around him, the pressure of the past filling the rooms like odorless gas. The sea breathed in the distance… But the house was wrong… Dragged by human labor across miles of ice, the outcasts straining against the ropes and shouting curses at the godly mob. Winched onto the rock. Groaning. A bound prisoner straining to get free. The humming of the taut cables. That vibration passed into the house, made it seem alive… he was inside a tethered animal, dumb but feeling. Swallowed by the shouting past.”

There’s a motley crew of characters besides the Quoyle family. They were well described, but I can’t say I ever latched onto a single one of them. There are some unhappy and tragic pasts that are revealed. I swear I’m not completely heartless, but these failed to move me! I was fully inspired by at least three more novels before this one. Let’s just say that Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, Jeanette Winterson and Annie Ernaux are at least partly to blame for my lackluster response to The Shipping News. My apologies to Annie Proulx who through no fault of her own failed to seduce me as these three women writers did. I know I’m in the unpopular minority with my three star rating, but I’ve always said I believe in second chances. I have a collection of her short stories waiting for another day.

“All the complex wires of life were stripped out and he could see the structure of life. Nothing but rock and sea, the tiny figures of humans and animals against them for a brief time.”
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
September 24, 2017
Like with almost every other Pulitzer darling, we accompany the protagonist for the entire ride, & this one is exceptionally literary in that brave, EveryMan-type way. This: the prototype for the ever ambitious, ever elusive Great (semi)American Novel in which the elements of clever prose, revamped/revisited personal histories, of second chances and redemption, are outstandingly clear and pitched at full blast. Many novels read like this, and usually the one in that particular year earns itself magnanimous acclaim. Yes, it tries to do everything right. But why is this not a contemporary classic (ahem, "Middlesex")? Because, after all, as the drama becomes more elevated, the protagonist becomes somewhat... uninteresting. As the atmosphere becomes a desolated (desperate?) return to simplicity, the token characters pile on--the thesis being that with more people around the sadness which is omnipresent is diminished. The only way to succeed in life is to partake in it. Bottom line.

No, this one is not without its problems--this is not Graham Greene, it is not Toni Morrison, it is not Geoffrey Eugenides, after all. Alas, it suffers from similar ailments shared by other Pulitzer winners: it is, at times, a tad too superficial ("A Visit from the Goon Squad"); somewhat dull-ish, small, insignificantish ("Breathing Lessons"); dense ("American Pastoral") or even a little too long, overdone (sorry--"Loneseome Dove"). & it is thoroughly enjoyable, too. (Which is NEVER a detractor from the overall experience.)

P.S. Several surprises await (in the last 12 pages) those readers who manage to reach the end. So... GET THERE, people.
Profile Image for Jocelyn.
27 reviews19 followers
November 9, 2007
My initial review of this book was simply "Bullllshiiit", but, um, perhaps more explanation is deserved. After a handful of people whose taste I respect raved about this book, I was looking forward to it, and got to page 180 or so before finally admitting "This feels like a chore" and giving it away (and I *rarely* leave books unfinished).

What got to me about this book was mainly Proulx's style was too...forced. Nothing that occured felt real or believed by the author herself (and it's not that I demand "realism"; One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorites). It's that I felt like I could see the mechanisms behind all of her "tricks"...the anecdotes that characters told felt like ideas Proulx kept on a notepad before compiling them together for this novel. It read like the final project from a brilliant student finishing a course on creative writing.

I'm not saying Proulx isn't a good *writer*...but I don't see her as a storyteller.
Profile Image for Julie G.
897 reviews2,930 followers
May 22, 2013
A book about knots. You know, nautical knots, fisherman's knots, each chapter beginning with a sketch of the intricate knot and its name.

And I can only tie my shoes. On a good day.

I don't remember nautical terms. They are lost on me. Always have been. If the ship goes down, it's going down with me.

But I know knots. A knot at the base of my throat, an edgy knot taking over my stomach, a knot where my colon used to be.

And, reading this unnerving masterpiece, you feel the knots. Because disaster looms in every page of this beauty. Disaster. A little like life, but worse. Life in Newfoundland.

Horrible, near-grotesque people. People you would never want to know, or date. Food I would never touch, outside of starvation.

And OUTSTANDING writing, as in STANDS OUT from anything I've ever read in my life. Luminous, poetic, inspired writing. As good as Morrison or Faulkner, but funny, too. I shook my head in awe, shook my head on every page, as I swallowed around the knots in my neck.

This novel left me shipwrecked.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,634 followers
December 11, 2019
The Shipping News is a wonderful read. We are introduced to Quoyle and follow him from his life and failed marriage in Mockingburg (!), New York through to his move and settling into Newfoundland with his two daughters, Bunny and Sunshine. There is a nearly Dostoyevski-level of tragedy underpinning the story - sexual assault, perversion, violence - which litters the road Quoyle travels down.

There are a few innovative aspects to the text itself, the names and the grammar. Annie Proulx comes up with some of the most original names I have ever seen (Tert Card! Bunny! Partridge!) and this helps make the text more memorable and fun. The staccato sentence structure where she often drops the subject is a clever way of dropping us into a pseudo-interior dialog inside Quoyle's head. These two features give a unique dynamic to Proulx's writing.

At the beginning of the story, Quoyle reminded me of Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, both physically and in terms of his lack of career, but fortunately for Quoyle, he quickly latches onto a friend, Partridge, and a career in journalism despite a rocky start. "Quoyle didn't recognize news, had no aptitude for detail. He was afraid of all but twelve or fifteen verbs. Had a fatal flair for the false passive." (p. 8).

Like Ignatius or even Augie March (The Adventures of Augie March to a degree, Quoyle is desperately trying to move beyond his limitations: "In a profession that tutored its practitioners in the baseness of human nature, that revealed the corroded nature of civilization, Quoyle constructed a personal illusion of orderly progress. In atmospheres of disintegration and smoking jealousy he imagined rational compromise. (p. 10). Fortunately for him, he is able to surmount the early catastrophe with Petal and reconnect with his somewhat damaged, but still maleable kids and becomes a charming father figure. (Yes, I am skipping some detail here in an effort to avoid spoilers.)

In his migration to the cold, windy north, he brings his aunt (herself full of incredible surprises) who imparts wisdom in little chunks: "As you get older you find out the place where you started out pulls at you stronger and stronger...Probably some atavistic drive to finish up where you started." (p. 30). She is going back, with great courage, to a place where she personally suffered but where she will build herself up again despite her own setbacks.

I wanted to mention that another characteristic of this book that makes it exceptional is the care the author takes to give a credible and poignant backstory to nearly all of the characters. None are mere cardboard cutouts of people. Even the crazy cousin has a moment of lucidity at the end. I found this to really bring me and bind me to the story.

There is a lot of comedy in the novel - on arriving in Killick-Claw, Newfoundland, the scene in the Tickle (!) Motel, Bar & Restaurant was particularly hilarious off of Route 999 (about as far from anywhere as you can imagine!): "Quoyle was the first to take a shower. Discoloured water spouted from a broken tile, seeped under the door and into the carpet. The sprinkler system dribbled as long as the cold faucet was open. His clothes slipped off the toilet and lay in the flood, for the door hooks were torn away. A Bible on a chain near the toilet, loose pages ready to fall. It was not until the next evening that he discovered that he had gone about all day with a page from Leviticus stuck to his back." (p. 55)

Quoyle goes to work for the local paper, the Gammy Bird and his male colleagues are all adorably bizarre. Nutbeem, Tert, and Billy plus his boss Jack - all described with care and humor. The book gets its title from Quoyle's column, The Shipping News, where he is to gather information on comings and goings from the port and which overtime he truly excels at while he gets used to the natural beauty (and unnatural human debris) of the area. Cleaning up around his house:"When he came upon a torn plastic bag he filled it with debris. Tin cans, baby-food jars, a supermarket meat tray, torn paper cajoling the jobless reader...plastic line, the unfurled carboard tube from a roll of toilet paper. Pink tampon inserts.
Behind him a profound sigh, the sigh of someone beyond hope or exasperation. Quoyle turned. A hundred feet away, a glistening back. The Minke whale rose, glided under the milky surface. He stared at the water. Again it appeared, sighed, slipped under. Roiling fog arms flew fifty feet above the sea."
(p. 110). Her descriptions of nature are occasionally breathtaking like this one.

In an important passage, Quoyle's colleague Billy gives him a metaphor for the schema for a man's life:"Ar, that? Let's see. Used to say there were four women in every man's heart. The Maid in the Meadow, the Demon Lover, the Stouthearted Woman, the Tall and Quiet Woman." (p. 182). While I have a hard time relating that to my own experience, it definitely correlates directly to Quoyle. The Tall and Quiet Woman is clearly the wonderful Wavey (!) and the story of she and Quoyle is another wonderful highlight to this charming book.

Each chapter begins with a quote, most often from a book of knots - the rope and knots being metaphors that are used throughout the novel. I really liked the last sentence of the story as well which uses this wonderful metaphor: "Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat's blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind might be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery." (p. 355).

Overall, this book was absolutely deserving of its Pulitzer Prize and made me want to read more work by this gifted author who, incidentally, was not published until she was in her 50s giving the present reviewer hope as yet! And I know I have to still see the movie with Kevin Spacey.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews735 followers
December 7, 2018
So far this is a great read, this book is a little gem. Had to get used to the language and the different way of storytelling, but this story, I love it so far!

Finished it today and what a great book to start 2010 with. I loved it!Loved the story, the characters, the description of the surroundings and the community, the way it is written, loved everything about it. It could have gone on forever for me. This is a feel good story, at least that's how I felt it. It was on my night desk next to the bed for some time and every page I read before sleep gave me joy. Read the most of the book in London pubs. A five star, beautiful gem.
Profile Image for Julie.
46 reviews7 followers
October 7, 2008
You know you're in trouble when you pan a Pulitzer prize winner, but pan I must. This book bored me to tears. Perpetual motion and its status as "currently reading" on Goodreads together got me through it. I didn't care what happened to whom or how it would end, I just wanted it over. Amazing the things that passed for excitement and were given excessive air time in this novel: an incredibly detailed rendition of the kids' Christmas pageant; knitting; the uneventful daily commute and various mostly silent car rides. Enough to make you want to shout FIRE! and see if any of these characters does anything but look around slowly, gather up his belongings--carefully--and think about that phone call he wasn't now going to get to make about that boat motor. Sheesh! Then when something interesting was happening, or happened before but was just coming up in conversation, nothing much is made of it! It's all brushed under the rug as not being worthy of the words it would have taken to adequately describe. I don't give a rat's a$$ about the detailed description of the animal paintings on the children's cocoa mugs, but I would have liked to have heard how, exactly, Mrs. Yark managed to rescue them from the total destruction of her house and her entire town.

And the names--nearly every one of them strange, and (to me) irksome. I couldn't decide through the entire book how to pronounce Quoyle--with a hard C or with a Kw. Wavey reminded me of Wavy Gravy. Petal. Marty for a girl. Beety. Last names (often used alone) were bizarre as well. Nutbeem. Pretty. Quoyle (double whammy, first and last). Buggit.

One review called the book "atmospheric." I'll give it that, if by Atmospheric they mean more "cold pea soup, no crackers" than "Middle Earth with Orlando Bloom." Another (this one on the back of the book), "a lyric page-turner." Whaaaa?

Enough, glad its done; it drove me nuts. Good thing Proulx's Brokeback Mountain is a short story, because I still do want to read that.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,907 followers
August 6, 2019
Probably not a good idea for me since reading convoluted descriptions of the weather is never going to be one of my favourite forms of entertainment and long languid non-stories involving lotsa far-fetched sitcommy eccentric types with daft names all being telegraphed to my brain in a staccato style studded with many outre dialect words that aren’t in big dictionaries so I guess musta bin quarried out of The Dictionary of Newfoundland English by G M Story et al (847 pages, revised edition published 1990) are when I’m brutally honest the thing I would tiptoe barefoot over broken glass to avoid, mostly. I kept leaving this paperback outside, but it didn't rain.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,178 followers
August 10, 2017
This is my first Proulx, so I didn't know if the unusual writing style is typical, or specially chosen for this particular story. I hope it's the latter, as it works very well.

Update: I've now read the collection, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other stories, which I reviewed HERE. Those stories use similar language, but somewhat toned down.

It covers a couple of years (plus some backstory) in the life of thirty-something Quoyle: a big, lonely, awkward and unattractive man, always having or doing the wrong thing. He is a not very successful journalist in New York, who ends up moving, with his young daughters (Bunny and Sunshine) and aunt, to a small, somewhat inbred, community in Newfoundland where the aunt and his late father grew up. Somehow Proulx keeps the reader on the fence: he isn't especially lovable, and yet he elicits more sympathy than mockery in this reader.

I think one weakness is that the mother of the girls is too horrible, and the manner of her departure from their lives stretched my credulity somewhat.


The narrative style is the first thing to hit. It is very distinctive, continues throughout the book, and could be infuriating, though I didn't find it so. It is telegraphic and observational, reflecting Quoyle's job. There are staccato sentence fragments, and some overworked analogies, some of which are wonderfully vivid, and a few of which are laughably awful. Grammar sticklers may struggle to enjoy this book, but it's their loss - context is all, and in this context, I think it works.

If I were as clever and witty as some of my GR friends (you know who you are), I would have written this review in the style of the book.

Anyway, some typical examples:

This is the entire opening paragraph of a chapter:
"The aunt in her woolen coat when Quoyle came into the motel room. Tin profile with a glass eye. A bundle on the floor under the window. Wrapped in a bed sheet, tied with net twine."

Another whole paragraph:
"Near the window a man listened to a radio. His buttery hair swept behind ears. Eyes pinched close, a mustache. A packet of imported dates on his desk. He stood up to shake Quoyle's hand. Gangled. Plaid bow tie and ratty pullover. The British accent strained through his splayed nose."

* "eyes the color of plastic"
* "the sullen bay rubbed with thumbs of fog"
* "On the horizon icebergs like white prisons. The immense blue fabric of the sea, rumpled and creased."
* "parenthesis around her mouth set like clamps. Impossible to know if she was listening to Nutbeem or flying over the Himalayas"
* "In a way he could not explain she seized his attention; because she seemed sprung from wet stones, the stench of fish and tide."
* "eyes like a thorn bush, stabbing everything at once"
* The ghost of his wife, "Petal's essence riding under his skin like an injected vaccine against the plague of love"
* "Fingernails like the bowls of souvenir spoons." (That's the whole sentence.)


Aspects of the town and its characters remind me of David Lynch's 1980s TV series "Twin Peaks": strange characters, often with impairments of mind, body or emotions, slightly strange names, odd superstitions, and dark secrets (murder, incest, rape, insurance fraud).

The town of Killick Claw isn't prosperous, and the environment is still harsh, but it's better than when the aunt grew up there: "The forces of fate weakened by unemployment insurance, a flaring hope in offshore oil money."

The Gammy Bird is the local paper, and it's like no other: lots of adverts (many of them fake), deliberate typos and Malapropisms, libelous gossip (including a regular catalogue of sex abuse cases!), shipping news and "we run a front-page photo of a car wreck every week, whether we have a wreck or not". Poor Quoyle is bemused and has the uneasy and familiar feeling "of standing on a playground watching others play games whose rules he didn't know".


Knots are the most obvious one. Each chapter opens with a quotation pertinent to what it contains, and many are from Ashley Book of Knots, which Proulx found second-hand, and gave her the inspiration and structure she sought. Knots feature in the plot metaphorically (in terms of being bound or adrift), in a more literal and superstitious sense. Rope can be wound and knotted to make good a wound or separation. We also learn that Quoyle's name means "coil of rope", and I suppose he is pretty tightly coiled for the first half of the book.

Shipping is obvious, too, not just from the title, but because Quoyle ends up writing the eponymous shipping news in the local paper, in a community where everyone needs a boat. Most of the introductory quotes that are not from Ashley Book of Knots are from a Mariner's Dictionary. I confess there were times when the quantity and level of detail slightly exceeded my interest, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

The book is riddled with pain, rejection, estrangement and mentions of abusive relationships (never graphic); many are haunted by ghosts of past events and relationships gone wrong. But although it is sometimes bleak, it is rarely depressing, and sometimes it's funny. Even close and fond relationships often have an element of awkwardness and distance; for instance, Quoyle always refers to "the aunt", rather than "my aunt". Even after living with her for a while, "It came to him he knew nearly nothing of the aunt's life. And hadn't missed the knowledge."

Ultimately, it's at least as much about (re)birth and healing as death and doom. One character slowly realises it may be possible to recover from a broken relationship: "was love then like a bag of assorted sweets passed around from which one might choose more than once?"


* "a failure of normal appearance" - if you can't even achieve that, what hope is there?
* "believed in silent suffering, didn't see that it goaded"
* In a shop, "the man's fingers dropped cold dimes"
* "fog shuddered against their faces"
* "the house was garlanded with wind"
* In such a harsh environment, "The wood, hardened by time and corroding weather, clenched the nails fast"
* "a few torn pieces of early morning cloud the shape and color of salmon fillets" (I think I'd prefer that one without the fish)
* "the woman in the perpetual freeze of sorrow, afloat on the rise and fall of tattered billows"
* a babysitter "doing overtime in a trance of electronic color and simulated life, smoking cigarettes and not wondering. The floor around her strewn with hairless dolls."

From The Ashley Book of Knots:
"To prevent slipping, a knot depends on friction, and to provide friction there must be pressure of some sort."
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews533 followers
July 25, 2016
A coil of rope

A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only.
It is made on deck, so that it may be
Walked on, if necessary.


Much like that coil of rope, our protagonist, Quoyle, has also been stepped on all his life. A great damp loaf of a body. At six he weighed eighty pounds. At sixteen he was buried under a casement of flesh. Head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair ruched back. Features as bunched as kissed fingertips. Eyes the color of plastic. The monstrous chin, a freakish shelf, jutting from the lower face. He stumbles into the newspaper business through a friend he meets one night in a laundromat in Mockingburg, New York. He is not very good at it. He also meets Petal Bear, a small woman he yearns for, they share a month of happiness , followed by six years of misery, two children and a multitude of scars, seared into his flesh from her indiscreet, two timing ways. Petal Bear does not value Quoyle or his children. Alone, without work, without a wife, on the heels of his father’s death, he decides to gather his children and follow his Aunt Agnis to his ancestral home on Newfoundland’s stark and majestic coast.

It is there, working for The Gammy Bird, a small newspaper, covering the shipping news, that Quoyle battles his inner demons and struggles to build a new life for himself and his daughters. But Quoyle is a man defeated, a man with no love of self. He even considers himself as a headline for one of his stories. Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More. I wanted so badly for Quoyle to find some gumption, to love himself just a little. When an oil tanker docks a Killick-Claw, Quoyle writes an article about it. Before release, the entire tone of his article is rewritten by the managing editor, only this time Quoyle is incensed. “This is a column”, bellowed Quoyle. “You can’t change somebody’s column, for Christ’s sake, because you don’t like it! Jack asked me to write a column about boats and shipping. That means my opinion and description as I see it. This” – he shook the paper against the slab cheeks –“isn’t what I wrote, isn’t my opinion, isn’t what I see.” At last! I was so overcome with sheer joy that I leapt out of my deckchair, threw my arms in the air and let loose a resounding “YES”! (okay so my neighbours may think I am a little hinky)

This is a great story, with a cast of truly colourful characters but if you will bear with me for just a moment, I would like to talk about what this book, wrong or right, said to me.

You cannot leave your past behind, no matter where you travel, there too, it is.

Everyone is worthy, not all heroes are tall, dark, handsome, beautiful, sexy, confident or comfortable in their own skin.

You cannot run, but you can dig deep and you can find a new hope, a new joy in life.

Family is defined not only by blood but also by bond, by those who are there, in the dark and the light.

These homes of love we build, house many rooms, sanded and painted in the shades and colours of our life, furnished with those moments that, however inconsequential they may seem to others, have in fact, defined us.

Cover beauty is coveted and exploited; provides keys to all the right doors, but it is our inner selves, our own moral code that is the true compass to the coveted life of beauty, peace, happiness and love.

I am not going to lie. I love the fact that this story unfolds on the stark and beautiful, majestic coast of Newfoundland, a province in the land I call my own.

Very rarely do I change a rating on a book once I have set it, but in this case, how can I not. Trust me, this story is worthy of every one of those five stars.

Finally I would like to thank Steve who wrote an incredible, heartfelt review of this work that put it on my radar.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,493 reviews2,374 followers
August 4, 2017
Thankfully negative reviews are somewhat of a rare commodity for me. In the case of The Shipping News, it's difficult to find any positives, simply down to Proulx's writing style which I never could grasp hold of, along with dialogue that annoyed the hell out of me. The star of the show if there was to be one, is Newfoundland itself, the characters I struggled to feel anything for, even in the more moving moments, I am still left though with a mixed reaction. I wondered what Proulx had against relative pronouns and conjunctions. I stumbled over sentences after sentence trying to accommodate myself with it, worst luck, it stayed like this for the entirety.

Down on his luck Journalist Quoyle, with young daughters Bunny and Sunshine in tow, heads to Newfoundland to hopefully reignite his floundering life, leaving New York, and a dead wife behind he travels to stay with his Aunt Agnis in a run down ancestral home right by the sea, it's remote, it's bleak, it's cold. He would take a job writing of the shipping news across the water for a paper called...wait for it...the gammy bird. The other characters in the book also have odd names, there's Wavey Prowse, Tert Card, Beaufield Nutbeem, Diddy Shovel and Alvin Yark, 10/10 for imagination. Becoming acquainted with the locals, Quoyle sutters along in life whilst trying to adapt to his surroundings, all the while weary of his daughters, and the affect it had on their own upbringing.

Proulx does do a wonderful job when describing Newfoundland, this was just about as good as it got for me, and after a promising opening setting the scene, I actually was looking forward in a positive light. However, the prose style is a big sticking point, and the pacing didn't suit me either, which, quite frankly was all over the place. To it's credit, it certainly wasn't dull, the characterisation was pretty good, But apart from Quoyle, aunt, and daughters, I didn't like spending time with any others, had I lived in a trailer, wore a Budweiser cap, and went boating I may have done.
Someone mentioned to me they would rather read of Newfoundland than go there. I disagree, would gladly get out my winter warmers and stand on the rocks staring into the fog, than read this again. As for a Pulitzer prize, the competition was either weak or non-existent.

Not all bad, just not my cup of tea. 2/5.
Profile Image for Sheba.
27 reviews11 followers
January 4, 2008
Ah the Shipping News. I remember my heart dropping when I read this book the first time. I thought, "If this is what people are writing, I am no writer."

This book is revolutionary in it's use of language. She punctuates inventively and her punctuation "style" gives her sentences a strange movement. The book moves, it actually moves, as you read it.

There are moments of such pain like when Quoyle lies still in his bed as Petal Bear fucks another man in their home--and it's not written in a way where you feel pity or anger; but you identify, I mean you get still like Quoyle--or I did...

There is this triplet of sentences where Quoyle realizes Bunny may fall from the ladder she is beginning to climb and when I read it, I felt my stomach drop and had a quick intake of breath--but those sentences were non dramatic, not written to scare or startle--it wasn't even the sentences that got me like that, it was like this weird pause orchestrated by creative punctuation.

Oh I really can't explain it...I just think this book is one of the best books I have ever read and by the way, the movie sucked something rancid and you should never see it. But read read read this book.
Profile Image for Brian.
707 reviews354 followers
February 19, 2019
“The old life was too small to fit anymore.”

I picked up “The Shipping News” recently while I was staying in a house in Nova Scotia that could have easily been the setting for the novel. Perhaps that aided in my enjoyment of the text? One thing it certainly did was reinforce for me how well the author (E. Annie Proulx) captured the setting and atmosphere of Newfoundland. The sense of place in this novel is well done. You feel the environment and Newfoundland in particular.
A criticism of the text is that the style of the writing kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. Proulx’s stylistic flourishes in this book are unique, interesting, and well done. And too much. However, having said that, I readily acknowledge her skill with language. At times, it is stunningly brilliant and original.
I really appreciated, and understood, the protagonist’s difficulty in putting a poisonous person/relationship behind him. It is artfully rendered, not cheap; as such issues can often be presented in lesser hands. Ms. Proulx captures that irony of fondly remembering a demon accurately.
The final paragraph of “The Shipping News” is beautiful. Nothing else to say about it.
A book that has been on my radar a while, now on my library shelf. It might not be for everyone, but it was for me.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews855 followers
May 29, 2018
My introduction to the fiction of Annie Proulx is The Shipping News. Published in 1993, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was one of several literary awards bestowed on this evocatively stark tale of a Statie, his aunt and two young daughters who relocate from New York state to the (fictional) town of Killick-Claw in Newfoundland for a second start on life. Much like Margaret Atwood, Proulx was on trial in my mind throughout her novel, which like Atwood, never ceases to remind the reader that they're reading a novel. It dazzles with its language and impressively bends conventions, but was difficult for me to love, with story and characters often yoked to the service of its descriptions.

The story involves a thirty-six year old oaf from the (fictional) town of Mockingburg, New York named Quoyle, who in the first of several reader-alienating devices, does not have a given name. An all-night clerk at a convenience store, he's befriended by a newspaperman named Partridge, who recommends Quoyle for the staff of a community newspaper as a reporter. A disappointment to his pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps father and walked over by his abusive wife Petal Bear, Quoyle's misfortunes continue when his terminally ill parents commit ritual suicide and Petal is killed in a car accident, having sold their daughters Bunny and Sunshine to sex traffickers on her way out the door.

Quoyle's only family (and the most realized character in the novel) is his paternal aunt Agnis Hamm, a yacht upholsterer who suggests her nephew and children need a fresh start. Aunt Agnis is nostalgic for the place she grew up and offers to relocate with them to Quoyle's Point in Newfoundland, their ancestral home where a house has stood unoccupied in coastal wilderness for forty-four years. Braving the wind and sleet and tire tracks standing in for a road, the Quoyles find the house uninhabitable. They move to the nearest town of Killick-Claw, where Partridge has recommended Quoyle for a job on the community newspaper, the Gammy Bird.

He had never seen so many ads. They went down both sides of the pages like descending stairs and the news was squeezed into the vase-shaped space between. Crude ads with a few lines of type dead center. Don't Pay Anything Until January! No Down Payment! No Interest! As though these exhortations were freshly coined phrases for vinyl siding, rubber stamps, life insurance, folk music festivals, bank services, rope ladders, cargo nets, marine hardware, ship's laundry services, davits, rock band entertainment at the Snowball Lounge, clocks, firewood, tax return services, floor jacks, cut flowers, truck mufflers, tombstones, boilers, brass tacks, curling irons, jogging pants, snowmobiles, Party Night at Seal Flipper Lounge with Arthur the Accordion Ace, used snowmobiles, fried chicken, a smelting derby, T-shirts, oil rig maintenance, gas barbecue grills, wieners, flights to Goose Bay, Chinese restaurant specials, dry bulk transport services, a glass of wine with the pork chop special at the Norse Sunset Lounge, retraining program for fishermen, VCR repairs, heavy equipment operating training, tires, rifles, love seats, frozen corn, jelly powder, dancing at Uncle Demmy's Bar, kerosene lanterns, hull repairs, hatches, tea bags, beer, lumber planing, magnetic brooms, hearing aids.

Quoyle's boss is Jack Buggit, a fisherman who launched a newspaper when the government proved inept at retraining him for anything else. Quoyle, whose journalism experience is limited to covering municipal news, is put on the car wreck beat, taking pictures and writing copy for the latest fatality, or using stock photos from past accidents if there hasn't been a new one. The fact that Quoyle's wife was just killed in a car accident seems not to have made an impression on Buggit, who also wants Quoyle to cover the shipping news, checking in each week with the harbormaster Diddy Shovel on which ships are coming and going.

The Gammy Bird consists the managing editor Tert Card, an alcoholic who detests the weather and economic malaise of Newfoundland and fakes almost all the ads in an effort to make the paper look profitable. Billy Pretty is Jack's second cousin, a bachelor who writes a salacious gossip column under the pseudonym Junior Sugg and offers to help Quoyle learn how to navigate the waters. Nutbeem is an English expat who covers the local sex abuse beat and reports foreign news he hears on the radio. Living in the Tickle Motel, where an inoperable phone and a broken doorknob traps them inside the room their first morning there, Quoyle gets a crash course in Newfoundland living.

With land passage often more difficult than water, Quoyle pays $50 for a homemade speedboat, which becomes the laughingstock of Killick-Claw. Pooling resources with Aunt Agnis, he begins repairing the house on Quoyle Point, but learns that winter will ultimately close the twenty-eight mile road to town and make travel impossible. The shipping news grows from a list to a column, which permits Quoyle to express an opinion. Agnis tries to match her nephew with one of her seamstresses, but he gravitates toward a young widow named Wavey Prowse whose spouse, he learns, was also a philanderer. He tries to survive in a land determined to kill anyone who crosses it.

These waters, thought Quoyle, haunted by lost ships, fishermen, explorers gurgled down into sea holes as black as a dog's throat. Bawling into salt broth. Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones. The Inuit in skin boats, breathing, breathing, rhythmic suck of frigid air, iced paddles dipping, spray freezing, sleek back rising, jostle, the boat torn, spiraling down. Millennial bergs from the glaciers, morbid, silent except for waves breaking on their flanks, the deceiving sound of shoreline where there was no shore. Foghorns, smothered gun reports along the coast. Ice welding land to sea. Frost smoke. Clouds mottled by reflections of water holes in the plains of ice. The glare of ice erasing dimension, distance, subjecting senses to mirage and illusion. A rare place.

The pleasures of The Shipping News can be found in Annie Proulx's descriptions. She's peerless when it comes to describing atmosphere, weather or landscapes and transporting the reader to the environment, or the moment, of the scene she's describing. Newfoundland comes to life as an alien world populated by frontiersmen victimized by drowning seas, car accidents or a downturn in the fishing industry. In a misstep, Proulx also throws sexual abuse into the cauldron in a cavalier, almost jokey way, but the novel is at all times unique in its ability to carry the reader away to the far side of the world without judging it or making a mockery of the locals.

Tert Card slammed through the door. "I'm shinnicked with cold," he shouted, blowing on his chapped hands, backing his great rear up to the gas heater, "this degree of cold so early in the season takes the heart out of you for the place. Trying to drive along the cliffs this morning with the snow off the ice and the wipers froze up and the car slipping sideways I thought 'It's only November. How can this be?' Started thinking about the traffic statistics. Last January there was hundreds of motor vehicle accidents in Newfoundland. Death, personal injury, property damage. In just one month. That's how the need begins, on a cold day like this coming along the cliff. First it's just a little question to yourself. Then you say something out loud. Then you clip out the coupons in the travel magazines. The brochures come. You put them on the dashboard so you can look at a palm tree while you go over the edge. In February only one thing keeps you going--the air flight ticket to Florida on your dresser. If you make it to March, boy, you'll make it to heaven. You get on that plan in Misky Bay, there's so much ice on the wings and the wind from hell you doubt the plane can make it, but it does, and when it glides and lands, when they throws open the door, my son, I want to tell you the smell of hot summer and suntan oil and exhaust fumes make you cry with pleasure. A sweet place they got down there with the oranges." He sucked in a breath, exhaled a snotty gust of sleek yellow water like a liqueur. Addressed Quoyle. "Now, buddy, you got some kind of a car or boat wreck this week or not?"

If The Shipping News were narrative non-fiction or an article in the New Yorker, it would be a five-star winner for me. Almost every paragraph is beautifully written, but they didn't add up to compelling fiction. Proulx's imagination falls short after the character of Aunt Agnis, who feels like she should be the protagonist. Quoyle and Waverly's relationship is given hardly any care or attention, while Bunny and Sunshine are also just there, adding nothing (the cute names of these characters adding to their artificiality). Descriptions of Newfoundland are the star attractions and I recommend the novel for those; story and characters small print on the back of the program.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,619 reviews985 followers
February 17, 2022
Journalist, writer and wordsmith American Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994 with this critically acclaimed in literary circles second novel. It doesn't take a genius to spot my use of 'literary circles' as probably not being a compliment about this story of an awkward (physically and visually) cuckolded outlier having no other real option than picking up sticks and moving (with his daughters and an aunt) to his ancestral home in a remote part of Newfoundland in Canada, where he sort of, almost by accident finds himself. A book lauded for its prose, its portrayal of a quirky cast, and details of life in the past and present in this remote port community, all tinged with an underlying delicately dark humour. At least on this occasion, even though this was just too random, too uninteresting and too artificially constructed for me, I can see what others see in it. Just a 3 out of 12, One Star read for me though.

Where this book went so wrong for me was having such an intriguing and eye opening start with the cuckolding of the main protagonist and his sad docile responses to the situations his wife put him into... and to go from that riveting scenario to tales of the awkward dude finding himself in the cold Canadian outback in a quirky community felt like a cold bucket of water over my reading head!

2022 read
Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews658 followers
May 24, 2022
And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.
Ugh. I spent far too long reading The Shipping News to waste much time reviewing it. This book tells the tale of Quoyle, a middle-aged man with a “great damp loaf of a body” who aspires to be merely pathetic. When his cheating wife is killed in a car accident, he moves with his two daughters and his aunt to their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Like Forest Gump, he somehow keeps failing upwards. Slowly, he sucks a little less, and by the end of the story he finds love.

Is The Shipping News populated with quirky characters? I guess, but not any I cared about even a little bit. The aunt is a lesbian, which might have passed as edgy in the mid-1990s but today was so obvious that it was hardly worth mentioning (especially as it added nothing to the plot). Is there a plot? Barely, pretty much just what I listed above, and it moves painfully slowly, glacier-like. Is the writing great? Ms. Proulx uses lots of phrases and incomplete sentences. It creates an almost staccato effect that is certainly unusual and might be either brilliant or lazy, depending on your mood. The writing is the reason I added a second star to my rating; it certainly wasn’t for the story.

The Shipping News somehow won both the 1993 National Book Award and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Is it too late to demand a recount?
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,676 reviews132 followers
December 13, 2019
This was a review in progress, as I waded through the bog of this book;

1. (October 28) A deeply uninteresting, unlikeable boy grows up to be a deeply uninteresting, unlikable man. He marries a nasty piece of work (who is also deeply unlikable) and spits out two children that are exactly the children one goes out of one’s way to avoid at shopping centres.

Parents die, wife dies, aunt shows up out of nowhere and whisks the whole aimless uninteresting lot of them off to a dreary remote end-of-nowhere town in Newfoundland.

That is the plot as it stands so far. This book won awards. Why is it that some committees feel that if it makes you miserable it must be good prose?

Well, to be honest it is - good prose that is - the English is well constructed and the descriptive powers of the Author are formidable. Unfortunately this formidable prose is completely lacking in any mitigating humour that would save it from being heavy, dull and dreary to read.

It might be that some shade of humour and likability may edge it’s way between the covers after the man starts the job after which the book is named. I am just not sure it is worth the slog as so far the only enjoyable part of the book has been the knot work quotes at the start of each chapter.

2. (November 7) There is room for all books in the world, it is good that we do not all read (or write, alike) this review is my opinion however and in my opinion overblown descriptiveness is a cheap and nasty way of convincing people that they are reading high quality literature when they are (usually) not. It is a specific style of writing that is only worthy of parodies such as Cold Comfort Farm, which mocked the florid style very well indeed.

As an example of what I dislike about the over-florid style, The Shipping News is made to measure. Consider the following sentence; “... oilcloth the colour of insect wings” [pg 57]. Do you feel that information as to the colour of the oilcloth has been imparted to you?

Wings of which insect?
Fruit flies and mosquitoes? (transparent with lovely iridescence and dark veins), Praying mantis? (usually, a delicate shade of green) Cockroaches? (dark brown for the outer wing case and light brown for the inner wings in ninety percent of species).
Or maybe a butterfly which is also an insect, a fact that cannot have escaped an author as addicted as Annie is to using every English word in the dictionary whether or not it is relevant to the meaning she is trying to impart.

3. (January 5th 2013) Finished. Thank goodness! there should be a way to give negative stars.

4. December 2016
It was certainly memorable. The painful, unpleasant memory has lingered over the years even though the memories of more enjoyable books have faded. So very memorable that I wince whenever I see the authors name printed and refuse to so much as pick up a book by her.
Profile Image for Théo d'Or .
385 reviews184 followers
July 24, 2020
It happens in Newfoundland, a place of water, moisture, and rottenness, of words that travel long distances, a place for people who know everything about boats, cliffs and icebergs.
A place of death of sea.
Quoyle Promontory is the birthplace of Quoyle's father, a diffuse character - where he retires with his two little girl.
The promontory is named by a family that the locals know is cursed.
Quoyle know this, and the hope that his life might be different - fades step by step.
By the way it's built, Quoyle is reminiscent of prince Mishkin - " good " in the most essential sense of the word, foreign to any pettiness. Just that Dostoïevski's " idiot" had, unlike Quoyle - a less struggling past.
Is it possibly that a man abused and humiliated throughout his entirely life - can stay away from any cruelty ?
The idea of the book is that there is always a hope.
From a "bad" life and family - a "good" man can always appear.
Each chapter is preceded by a small quote from Ashley's " Book of Knots" , which aims at the meaning of the chapter.

The story is one of the fall, despair, and salvation of lost people, by other lost people.
From the movements of the characters - to the way the narrative thread flows, everything is cohesive and plausible.
The reader never have the feeling of wasted time, on the contrary - he is left with an image of a well- directed film, with a provocative plot, and some tailor-made actors.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,893 followers
August 6, 2017
Nice novel in which it appears that to some extent you can overcome your past.

It's also a nicely constructed piece with this quiet core surrounded by these wild events (the apparent sale of the daughters, the past sexual abuse, the horrors of the ancient ancestors, the murder). However wild the events, crashing and buffeting against the rocky coast it is the quietness that predominates and wins out.

It is the kind of novel that wins prizes, because it is healing book, the past here is full of horror but in the present all those horrors are firmly confronted, resolved, stitched up, frayed ends knotted, no loose ends left and the future the author assures us can be happy irrespective of sexuality, personal needs or even the economy.

The interesting idea I felt was the notion of place and person, every person has they place and out of their natural and proper environment they will fail like an oak in the Sahara, even their physicality will come across and ridiculous and uncouth, however once in their correct ecological niche, the human person can flourish. And this book is the story of one man finding his place. The square peg sliding comfortably into the square slot. There is a charm in that though you could read it as a condemnation and belittling of the regional novel - 'hey look, this is where loosers make sense!' a kind of elephant's graveyard for off beat literary characters.
Profile Image for Maciek.
567 reviews3,413 followers
March 24, 2013
Annie Proulx exploded onto the literary scene with the publication of her second novel, The Shipping News. It was 1993 and she was 58. No victim of sophomore jinx, The Shipping News gave Annie a double boost: it won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer prize for Fiction - one of just six books picked by both juries, and has subsequently been adapted into a film.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in a mix of small upstate towns, Quoyle is definitely not having the time of his life. Socially inept and not comfortable in his bricklike body, lonesome Quoyle shuffles from occupation to occupation in upstate New York. Marooned in the recession-struck town of Mockinburg, Quoyle tries his hand at journalism - and naively marries a good for nothing bimbo, who gives him two daughters but no love. Petal Bear - all characters in this novel have great names - is a vicious and hateful woman, who however never rises above the plot device necessary to move the story forward. And the story is grim enough - Quoyle finds that his life is falling apart: he has no sense of purpose or belonging. He turns to his aunt, Agnis Hamm, for advice - and it is she who convinces him to leave his miserable life in New York behind, take his daughters and go with her to the home of their ancestors, named after them - to Quoyle's Point, in Newfoundland. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Quoyle chooses The Rock - and so begins the story proper.

Newfoundland is a large island on the eastern coast of Canada, known for its variable maritime weather which can surprise its population on any given day, forcing much of it to grow hard and fight their way through pounding waves and breaking storms. Newfoundland was England's first possession in North America - it became a colony in the early 17th century and remained first a colony and later a dominion of the United Kingdom until 1949, on which year it entered the Canadian Confederation and became the nation's tenth province. Two referendums had to be organized - the first was proven inconclusive, and the second was won by only a slight majority of pro-Confederation voters (52.3% to 47.7%). Since joining the Confederation Newfoundlanders continue to see themselves as a unique group, and have maintained their own culture, cuisine and even a variety of English language.

For generations, cod fishery defined Newfoundland: it was a source of cultural and social identity, as most families were either directly involved in fishery or indirectly connected to it, by earning their livelihood as fish transporters or sellers, worked at fish plants and other fishing related businesses. For centuries Newfoundland fishermen used technology which allowed them to target specific species and ages of fish, map the area of fishing and limit the size of their catch. After Confederation Newfoundland fishermen were introduced to modern technology, such as the sonar and radar, which allowed them to fish deeper than ever and pursue fish on an unprecedented scale and compete with other nations that also fished in the region. However, these advances did irreversible damage to the stock of Northern cod: by fishing on larger areas and deeper scale the cod were depleted at the scale which did not allow the surviving fish to replete the stock fished each year; trawlers also caught an enormous amount of other fish, which although not commercially viable was invaluable to the area's ecosystem and severely disturbed the predator-prey relations among the fish. A significant amount of capelin were caught, on which the cod preyed - further fueling the speed of extinction of the remaining cod stock. In the summer of 1992, the Northern cod biomass - once the largest in the world - fell down to 1% of its previous level; in a dramatic attempt to save the cod the federal government declared a moratorium on cod fishery along the east coast, hoping that the cod population would recover and the fishing industry could be restored. It never did; the damage to Newfoundland's ecosystem was ineradicable, and the cod has not returned to Atlantic Canada. Cod fishery remains closed - it was the largest industrial closure in Canadian history - and over 35,000 fishers and people involved in fishing related businesses found themselves suddenly unemployed. The population of the province decresed by about 60,000, as many families were forced to leave the rock which borne them and hope for a life elsewhere.

It is to this rock that Quoyle comes with his children and aunt, to the post-Confederation but also post-cod Newfoundland, where those who remain try to survive. There he meets Jack Buggit, Tert Card, Beaufield Nutbeem and Bayonet Melville, and others cast away in the small Newfoundland town of Killick-Claw, where Quoyle lands a job for the local paper, The Gammy Bird. Quoyle is to report car wrecks and the shipping news - arrivals and departures of ships into the harbor. Clumsily at first but nonetheless carrying on, Quoyle begins to find his own voice as a reporter, make friends and acquaintainces in the tightly-knit community and begins to find himself in the harshness of Newfoundland's weather, and begins to discover the past of his ancestors, themselves castaways from Newfoundland to New York.
I have never been to Newfoundland, but I felt as if the book transported me there. Although Annie Proulx is an American, she moved to Newfoundland for research and spent time among Newfoundlanders, and wrote a book with a great sense of place (and its weather), populated with interesting and memorable people with great, quirky names. Although the story is a classic one - broken man leaves former life and begins anew - she sells it with her ability to transport the reader to the places she describes, and slowly draws him into her world. Newfoundland comes alive in The Shipping News, with its fog and wind and blocks of ice clinking in the bay, the boats cradled by the waters at one time and violently thrown aside the next; smoke rising from the chimneys, people reading The Gammy Bird and Quoyle's shipping news while sipping their warm drinks, each confronting their own problems, all united by the Rock they live on, loving and hating its rough caress at the same time.

Chapters are introduced with a description of a knot from The Ashley's Book of Knots, serving as an illustration of the themes of the book - Quoyle is a coil of rope; "A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only. It is made on deck, so that it may be walked on if necessary." Quoyle's first name is never given - he has been walked on all his life, and is like a coil of tangled rope. In Mockinburg he had few friends, and nobody took time to get to know him; Newfoundland is to literally be a place of his new self-discovery, but there everybody knows the Quoyles; Quoyle effectively becomes nothing more than an extension of his long dead family. Throughout the book, Quoyle has to untangle the knots made by others which tightened around him and made him a dangled mess and set free the person that he has inside of himself, and The Shipping News is an admirable story of this one man's struggle to overcome personal defeat and his own shy pursuit of happiness on a harsh Canadian island, where hope swirls in the air even amidst the winter storm.
Profile Image for Eli.
76 reviews24 followers
July 2, 2007
This is one of the very best novels I've had the chance to read. It's not just that the story is rich in and of itself - and it is - it's that the words themselves are so artfully assembed that they provide layers of undercurrents that add depth and emotion to the narrative. This book reads like a symphony, with many intertwined themes and narratives all woven together into a whole, unified picture.

Proulx writes in choppy short sentecnes. It's akward and clumsy language viewed against the littered murky landscape of personal failure and Mockingbird, NY, where the story starts. But when the story shifts location - in the first of several deeply satisfying views of fair-handed fate - the choppiness of the words begin to work in concert with the setting. Words that sounded unnatural and coarse describing suburban life are perfect when describing the Newfundland coast line and the direct, honest, self-possesed people who live there. As the characters grow and gain depth, the language fits them more and more clearly.

Proulx describes a world that could hardly be more concrete and weaves in thrilling bits of magic. She doesn't water down an incredibly hard life but weaves in the certainty that it's a also a good life. In the end, she's created a lovely, satisfying book without the slightest hint of syrup, contrivance or manipulation. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I hated to see it end.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
903 reviews1,816 followers
September 18, 2017
Picked this book for my award winners challenge and solely for this challenge I came to know about this book. I am glad that I put these challenges for me and because of them I am reading all these different books. Some proved to be disaster, others just made me fall in love with themselves. This book is somewhere in between. Neither I hated nor I loved it.

The Shipping News revolve around Quoyle who had a tough childhood and equally tough twenties. After the death of his wife he moved back to Newfoundland, Canada, his original home. There he changed himself into a responsible father, and a person people look up to when they think that they are in need of help and this person will never disappoint them.

I really loved the transformation part. How Quoyle started connecting with the people in this small coastal town. His friendship with Dennis, friction and loyalty at his office with colleagues, all was described in a lively manner. Beside that language was really beautiful.

But the two things that i didn't like about it and which also made me remove two stars from my rating 1) the parts about fishing and boating lessons and how one could be perfect in them, 2) the end was not what i expected. While first put me to sleep, in second i was most disappointed. It fell a little too short of my expectations.

I just fell in love with the writing so I am definitely reading another book by Annie Proulx.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
652 reviews388 followers
March 22, 2020
I wanted to start off my Pulitzer Prize Challenge--I'm trying to get in a winner once a month during 2020--with a book I'd been meaning to get to for some time. E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is pretty well regarded, but also happens to be about my adopted home province. Amidst a record-breaking and city-closing snow storm I read through the most of this ode to Newfoundland culture and lifestyle. Though I'd really hoped to like or even love this book, it failed to really grab me with its character-driven narrative.

That's in no small part to the gloomy and miserable life of Quoyle. The poor dude just can't seem to catch a break, and though he eventually finds his place in his ancestral home, it's a bit of a boring journey to get there. I'm willing to concede that to a person unfamiliar with Newfoundland this book could have a lot of charm: it's got reflections of people I've known even if some bits feel a bit outdated. I think Proulx does The Rock justice, but it just didn't end up being my cup of tea.

Even though this fell flat for me, I can appreciate Proulx's writing and her incorporation of Newfoundland slang, places, and people. I liked some of the book's philosophy, but won't be flipping through the pages when I walk by it on the shelf. Ah well, a bit of a shame that it didn't work for me, but there's lots of other Pulitzer's in my future! [2.5 Stars]

This is the first book in my 2020 Pultizer Challenge!
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews431 followers
September 30, 2016
National Book Award--1993
Pulitzer Prize--1994

Many of today's "modern writers" have styles so similar, or maybe a better way to say it, their lack of style makes it hard to distinguish their differences. But there are a few out there that have very distinct writing styles that set them apart, that give them a unique and recognizable identity. Annie Proulx is one of those. Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Allison, and Markus Zusak also come to mind for me.

I've often wondered about Newfoundland, what it's like, what the people are like, would I enjoy living there. Through Annie Proulx words I feel like I have a sense for what it's like, right or wrong, I don't know. The setting and the characters became real to me while reading The Shipping News. They have their troubles, present and past, in this bleak and often harsh environment, but they are likeable for the most part.

The quality of the writing made this an easy and enjoyable read for me. It's certainly deserving of it's awards and acclaim.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
964 reviews354 followers
June 1, 2018

Sono su GoodReads che aggiungo commenti, inserisco schede, ripasso in pochi minuti le mie letture degli ultimi anni*, e arrivata qui mi accorgo che non ho commentato questo libro. Che pure è diventato con prepotenza uno dei miei preferiti.

Sempre essere disposti a cambiare e a reinventarsi, nella vita, è questa la lezione di Quoyle.
C'è sempre una terranova pronta ad accogliere ciascuno di noi.
Bello da leggere e da guardare, anche se Kevin Spacey era l'ultimo Quoyle possibile da scegliere.

Recentemente ripubblicato da Minimum Fax, non lasciatevelo scappare.

(*Tutto questo succedeva prima del 2014, prima che il mio primo account su GR si polverizzasse nell'iperspazio e fosse poi sostituito da quello attuale).
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