I picked up Michael Crummey’s Galore because a friend of mine suggested it was “the best book he ever read.” Bold claims from a well-read man. I admit being reluctant to read it because I’m using Crummey in my dissertation, and the idea of reading – for pleasure – an author that I’ve spent endless hours thinking about worried me.
(Aside: Longstanding debate between me and M. about whether or not someone can “read for fun” or whether any sort of reading is inherently “critical.” I err on the side of “reading for pleasure” and “reading for work,” and find that when I’m reading for pleasure I do not annotate; I do not fixate on symbols/images in the same preoccupied way I might while working; I do not consciously consider the novel as a national work… But, of course, I write this blog, and I *think* about what I read as I’m reading it: that is the work of a reader, right? I’m not sure why reading critically cannot also be pleasurable, for me, at least, reading and thinking are pleasurable activities. It just becomes “work” when I then have to write about it, compare it, map the themes and ra ra ra – gag).
I shouldn’t have worried. Galore is beautiful. The poetry of description, the balance of third person limited with third person omniscient sweeps the reader between the intimate thoughts of characters – spanning generations – and the intricacies of the community and the relationships in that community. I suppose it was purposeful that the reader is denied the third person limited perspective of Jonah (the man who opens the novel being born from the belly of a whale), but all the same, my only complaint is that we don’t get the chance to hear his thoughts. Of course, it’s appropriate that we don’t (Jonah is mute), just frustrating because of how much I *wanted* to read his view: a testament, I think, to the strength of his character.
Ambitious in its time-line, Galore maintains a surprising (and pleasurable) balance between the intimate lives of the families on the shore (set in Newfoundland) and the “bigger” concerns of a settlement coming into the 20th century (medicine, education, union organization). Highly recommend.