editor's choice




Newfoundland is one of those places that captures the imagination – if, indeed, you are aware of it at all. We love books like Michael Crummey’s The Innocents, which evoke its haunting, savage, challenging, sometimes extremely strange landscape, which really is like nowhere else on earth. That alone would make us like this novel, but truth be told, Crummey’s writing is, well, simply extraordinary.

Set on the inhospitable northern shore, the novel opens with the deaths of the sibling and then parents of Evered and Ada Best, barely twelve and ten at the time. With little education or knowledge of the outside world, and living in extreme isolation but for a supply boat that stops by every six months, the two youngsters soldier on, meting out a hard existence, as they grow up, framed by the forlorn wilderness of the island and its landscape.

Crummey, who was inspired to write this tale when he came across the story of an orphaned brother and sister in eighteenth-century Newfoundland, weaves a lyrical tale, his language pared back, each word seemingly placed for maximum impact.

A quiet book, The Innocents has a pace rather like the sea surrounding the island: relentless, mesmerising, gripping. It’s a novel about nature, about human nature and what happens when two people grow up in isolation, with little more than innate instinct to guide them on their way.

The Innocents is beautiful. Very, very beautiful. Possibly one of the most beautiful books we’ve read in quite some time. And beyond that? Really, there’s not much more we can say.


Michael Crummey | The Innocents | No Exit Press | 20 August 2020 | paperback | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the book tour organised by Random Things Tours. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation. Thanks to the publisher for supplying a book proof. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other reviews on this tour.

See also:Helen Fitzgerald’s mesmerising Ash Mountain‘; ‘CWA’s Vintage Crime’; ‘Amanda Craig’s homage to Highsmith‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Also of interest: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012).

This review is copyright © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.











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