It’s probably quite rare that you can legitimately praise a book for being bleak, but “The Shipping News” is one such book. Not only through the medium of the story and the sparse picture painted of Killick Claw, the somehow elemental nature of the people who live there, but also through the language she uses. In many ways the narrative not only depicts the rawness of the events that take place, but also their stark nature. Everything is grey, harsh and rock-like, and the language works in synergy with that. Even Quoyle’s tentative love life fits the bill with any vestige of true romance sucked out of it by the demands of the environment and memories of a supposedly ‘better’ past elsewhere.
Escape is something of a theme, but it appears the only way to truly escape from Killick Claw is to die, and the book is filled with echoes of death, the ultimate way the sea claims its inevitable prize. Perfectly symptomatic of that is the destruction of Nutbrown’s boat on the eve of his departure, a wonderful – but horrific – episode that sums up the impossibility of escape.
The more I think about “The Shipping News” the easier it is to see why it won the Pulitzer…
I have the advantage of not having seen the film. It will be interesting when I do – to see if it matches the images I have in my head..!