The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx – Book Review

Quoyle is an awkward man who finds social interactions more difficult that most. He stumbles into a career in newspapers, and through a series of desperately sad events, ends up living in Newfoundland with his aunt and his two daughters. And stuff happens. Not a lot of stuff, but stuff.

I found myself struggling through this book. It is beautiful, but extremely densely beautiful, and it was like wading through prose in the hope of reaching story. I think it is a certain type of writing. It reminds me of John Irving and even Jonathon Franzen. The writing is something that I feel glad I’ve read, but a little annoyed that it’s taken so much of my time.

Thinking back over the book, there is no doubt that a lot of stuff happens, but there seems to be very little emotional connection to it. Throughout Quoyle’s grieving, I felt nothing. Characters die or tell their terrible stories, and I felt nothing. I felt like I really wanted to connect, but just didn’t.

What I did love was the way E. Annie Proulx uses The Ashley Book of Knots throughout the book as inspiration. Often, when authors have a poem or some other quote at the start of each chapter, I ignore it, but found these bits fascinating. It was almost like a Where’s Wally moment, looking to find the connection between the quote and how it worked in the narrative.

The book was made into a film with an amazing cast including Kevin Spacey, Dame Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite and Cate Blanchett. I must watch this – I just can’t see how this could translate into film.