My Favorite Reads – The Shipping News

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.

From the back cover: At thirty-six, Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman, is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts.  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.

My thoughts: I haven’t thought about this book in years but when I was flipping around the movie channels about a week or so ago, I came across the movie and remembered how much I loved this book.

Quoyle is such a sad character but you love him, mostly because you feel so bad for him at the beginning, but when he starts to realize that life has some good parts, you really love him.  The family dynamics are fantastic and you can laugh, get annoyed, and cry at all their lives.  I also adored the way Proulx adds cultural touches to the book that feel so right and not added on to fit with the setting.  Everything and everyone belongs.

This book was published in 1993 but if you see a copy around, give it a try.  You’ll be delighted and justly rewarded.

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

By Nancy Marie Brown

Harcourt, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-15-101440-8

4 stars

In the 12th Century, a Viking woman named Gudrid packed up and left all she knew to sail to the edge of her known world. She was looking for the land found by Leif Eiriksson. After being blown off course by a storm, she eventually landed in the New World and made a home there only to sail back to her homeland a few years later.

Gudrid is mentioned in some Icelandic sagas and over the years her existence has been debated, until archeologists unearthed a longhouse in Newfoundland that proved she did in fact exist and was literally the stuff legends are made of.

I don’t read much non-fiction but I’ve always found Vikings fascinating and thought this would be interesting read. I was right, it was. Some of the archeological technology, GPS coordinate mapping, and other methods used to uncover the sites were not all the interesting but chapters on Viking diets, farming techniques, weaving, and daily living conditions were. Who would have thought the process of making wool and spinning would be entertaining? And, also a bit disgusting since urine is involved in the process but nonetheless fun to read about it. When I came to the chapters describing the lives of Viking I was hooked.

The sagas that Brown references in every chapter made me want to read more. I put The Greenlanders, a novel by Jane Smiley, on hold at the library and hope I find it just as entertaining. If you like Viking stories and sagas, you’ll enjoy this read. While part of it might sound like a college lecture, the rest makes up for it.