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A whale of a story shortlisted by IMPAC

May 10, 2011

This is the second appearance of Michael Crummey’s novel Galore on TLS, which I spotlighted several months ago as a forthcoming book to keep an eye on. After being absorbed in it this past week, I can tell you it’s one of those novels that engulfs readers in atmospheric writing and unique characters that provide delightful escape into another world. That world is from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries, although in the first half of the book the timeframe is vague. It takes place on the unmerciful shores of Newfoundland in a fictional fishing outport called Paradise Deep. The story opens biblically with an albino man pulled from the belly of a beached whale, and he survives. Inhabitants of Paradise Deep refer to this mute stranger afflicted with a permanent stink as the Great White or Judah.

Judah is ever-present in the 300+ pages of Galore, but no one character in this extraordinary novel gets predominant focus, rather it’s a story about the handful of people in this place descended from rivals Devine’s Widow and King-Me Sellers. Their unlikely marriages and love affairs, their adventures on the water, and their varying religious faiths cleverly stir the plot. This is no typical generational saga, however, because of the folkloric sorcery Crummey deftly weaves into their fishing lives. It lends a magical, seductive quality to the story, and I responded to it as if unaware that it was anything unusual — such as the ghost of a dead man living with his wife, or the thick foliage of an apple tree providing baptismal protection from disease to the children, or a teacup curing a rash of warts. One difficulty: Keeping the characters straight in the second half of the book is a challenge, but Crummey provides a family tree, which I frequently referred to.

The short and long of IMPAC
Galore has been shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the largest and most international prize of its kind. Nominees come from public libraries in countries around the world.  According to the award’s website, 10 novels have been shortlisted for the award, from a total of 162 novels nominated by 166 public library systems in 126 cities worldwide. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is worth €100,000. 

Along with Galore, books on the shortlist for the IMPAC prize include the following. The winner will be announced June 15.

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