Posts Tagged ‘Michael Crummey’

Shadow Giller Winner 2019

November 18, 2019

It was an unusual year for us shadow jurors – with only two of us reading and reviewing the books – so we went about our deliberations a little differently. Marcie and I revealed our top two books (of the six on the shortlist), and Alison (who has read four of the six books) joined in our discussion.

We are thrilled to announce that this year (and in the spirit of the Booker) we have a tie!

Congratulations to Michael Crummey (Doubleday Canada) and Ian Williams (Random House Canada)!


Jury Citation for The Innocents: “Written in a language that is at the same time fresh and ancient, Michael Crummey’s The Innocents is a (mis)creation myth that demands a reconsideration of what we think we know about love and death, family and loneliness, oblivion and wisdom, horror and beauty, bodies and knowledge, violence and desire. Anchored in exquisite specificity and heartbreaking simplicity, and inviting us into a distant past that makes fresh matters of ever-present concern about survival and sacrifice, Crummey’s novel has the capacity to change the way the reader sees the world.”

Jury Citation for Reproduction: “Ian Williams’s Reproduction is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.”


Our thoughts on The Innocents

Alison: “It’s a brave and beautiful book.”

Marcie: “Michael Crummey is a favourite writer of mine. There are a lot of qualities I admire in his novel and I wouldn’t be sorry to see it take the prize. In terms of story and language, it’s outstanding. Also, I have a soft spot for fiction which emerges from history. And apparently this story was pulled from the history books. I also have a predilection towards stories about the forgotten and overlooked, and The Innocents reminds me how often stories of the powerless are relegated to the margins. Some might feel that this work does not represent a diverse choice, but the story of these two children is not an oft-told tale: it is, nonetheless, an archetypal tale, too. It’s an engaging story about how fragile we are, as human beings, and how tragic circumstances can be devastating but also empowering: these children are victims in one sense but are valiant in every other sense.”

Naomi:I was mesmerized by Crummey’s use of language throughout the book. In addition, he took a sensitive subject (that even he admitted to not wanting to touch) and turned it into a tender story of survival that is successful at eliciting feelings of compassion and sympathy for its characters and their circumstances.”


Our thoughts on Reproduction

Marcie:For me, Reproduction scratches every literary itch I have: it leaves me satisfied after just a single reading and, simultaneously, yearning to reread, with an awareness that there are still many echoes and layers that I likely missed along the way. The way that the theme resonates throughout the novel tickles my reader’s fancy; I enjoy puzzling out the ways that habits and attachments, mistakes and fractures reproduce in the narrative. One aspect that I particularly admire is the way that the novel thickens as the pages accumulate; across the generations, the human patterns intersect and loop in different directions, until it’s all a blur of loving and losing. And even though absences overshadow presences at times, bonds remain and you’re left to imagine the ways in which these characters’ stories will continue to reproduce after the last page has been turned.”

Naomi:The thought and creativity that went into this book amazes me. Not only do we get an engaging story with strong characters, we also get an interesting and playful structure (whether you choose to pay attention to it or not).”


Now we wait to see what the real Giller Prize jury has to say. They will name their official winner tonight (Monday, November 18th)! For specific timings, please visit the official website.


What do you think of our choice(s)? How do you feel about the tie? Which book would you choose?


You can find the review links to all the shortlisted books here!


We have also done some longlist reading. Here’s where you can find our reviews:

Days By Moonlight by André AlexisConsumed by Ink  and Buried in Print

Dream Sequence by Adam FouldsConsumed by Ink

Late Breaking by K.D. MillerConsumed by Ink 

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-BentaConsumed by Ink

Greenwood by Michael Christie – coming soon to Buried in Print

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – coming soon to Buried in Print




Giller Shortlist: The Innocents by Michael Crummey

October 11, 2019

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an author reading with Michael Crummey at the Halifax Library. It was my first time hearing him speak in person, and I was surprised by how relaxed he seemed and how funny he was. (Not as surprised by how personable and articulate.)

Crummey spoke about how The Innocents came to be. Years ago, in the St. John’s archives, he came across a “reference to an 18th century clergyman who discovered two young siblings living on their own in an isolated cove. When the clergyman approached them to ask how they came to be there on their own, the boy chased him off at gunpoint.” (CBC) Crummey couldn’t get those youngsters out of his head. “… to be orphaned in a place without any outside influences at all, and then having to try and discover who they were and how the world worked.

Crummey also spoke of his use of a book called Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (Francis Grose, 1785), where he found some whopping insults that fit nicely into his book. The excerpt he read that night is a good example of some of the colourful language he uses in his book.

In this excerpt, Sarah Best is making jam and her husband Sennet is trying to swipe some of it before it’s done.

Their father stole the spoon away and their mother smacked him across the ear with the flat of her hand.

“You lousy hedge whore,” he shouted, grabbing at her shoulders.

“Muck-spout,” she said through her teeth. “Filthy beard splitter.”

They wrestled nearly to exhaustion before he managed to corral her arms, cuffing her wrists together in one hand to give himself unfettered access to the cooling jam. He scooped a ladleful in his bare fingers and held their mother still a long moment then, trying to catch his breath, watching her as the thickened juice dripped from his hand.

“Don’t you,” Sarah Best said, weak with laughter, almost too winded to speak.

“You dirty shag-bag,” she said, yanking with both arms, using the last of her strength to try to pull clear.

“My bob tail,” their father said, reefing her closer.

“Sennet Best,” she said, “you buck fitch.”

And he brought the dripping hand to her face then, smearing the jam across her cheeks and her mouth and her squinted eyes as she squirmed in his grip and laughed and cursed him all she was worth.

What is a muck-spout, anyway? According to Mental Floss, it’s “a dialect word for someone who not only talks a lot, but who seems to constantly swear.” And a beard splitter?… “a British slang used for ‘ a man much given to wenching.’’ (The Vintage News)


Marcie (Buried in Print) also notes the language Crummey uses in The Innocents; the way in which it can make us feel close or at a distance.

The language makes it seem farther away, like another nation. Take, for instance, a passage like this, sprinkled with dialect which reminds readers of the Irish/Scottish/English settlements which took root. “In August Ada swept the beach clean, scraping mollyfodge from the rocks on the bawn to make an untainted platform for laying out the cod that had been sitting weeks in salt bulk.”

But the story, in particular the relationship between Ada and her brother, Evered, the universal struggles they face (survival – how much more basic does it get – and a desire to connect), makes it seem closer. As does the occasional glimpse of humour in what is a chronicle of an often-difficult and occasionally tragic life.

“You was lost in the dawnies again,” she said. “What was it you was dreaming about?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Some old foolishness.”

“You’re an awful liar, Brother.”

He shrugged. “It idn’t for lack of practice,” he said.

‘Mollyfodge’, ‘bawn’, and ‘dawnies’: that might put you back on your heels. But Evered’s quiet joke, and the talk of dreams, the everyday work (be it sweeping or fishing): in essence, it’s everyday life.

And the way in which it reminds us of poetry.

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”.

Marcie calls his writing “accomplished and resonant”, but notes that he especially wins her “reader’s heart” when he talks about storytelling.

To find out which of Crummey’s books is Marcie’s favourite, and to read her full review of The Innocents, pop over to Buried in Print.


We would love to hear your thoughts on The Innocents, Michael Crummey, the Giller, or any other bookish thing you would like to say! 

You can find the reading schedule for the shortlist here.

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