Crummey is a writer I’ve been following for years. Since I learned he was a winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award for young writers (she was one of my first MustReadEverything authors).
His writing about Newfoundland is accomplished and resonant, but when he talks about storytelling, that’s when he wins my reader’s heart. And my favourite book of his (so far) is all about storytelling: Galore.
There is a lot to admire in The Innocents. And it gripped me from its opening pages. But the story felt uncomfortably intimate from the start. Not in the way that you might guess if you’ve read the story (that part – which I won’t identify as it’s a spoiler – didn’t trouble me). But in the same way that one of these characters views a scene which cannot be forgotten, I could not set aside some of the sadnesses herein. They surged beneath the remainder of the narrative. As sad things do.
The language is beautiful. One also cannot forget that Crummey is a poet, so we have snippets like this to enjoy: a man who reads “periodically from the black book in his hands, his voice like a spadeful of gravel against wood”.
The setting is mesmerizing: “The cove was the heart and sum of all creation in their eyes and they were alone there with the little knowledge of the world passed on haphazard and gleaned by chance.” (Here, too, you can glimpse the genesis of the title.)
And there is a balance to the telling, so although there is starvation, there is also feasting: “Once a week Ada fried a breakfast of toutons as a treat and she and Evered slathered the doughy cakes with molasses, licking their plates clean when they were done, each smiling to see the other do the same.”