Cover Image: The Innocents

The Innocents

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Member Reviews

I read this at the time of Covid 19 pandemic, and the fact that two orphan children in this novel are trying to survive on an island by fishing and growing their food and foraging, put a lot of things into perspective.

It is an atmospheric read, don’t expect incredible plot twists or a crowd of characters or in fact any change of location. However, considering the limitations the author has set for himself – the stylised language, the setting, the overemphasis on survival – this book is fairly accomplished. It is compelling to read, and never have I felt bored of the detailed descriptions of the children’s routine life.

Michael Crummey succeeded in showing that even when certain things are considered outrageous by society, the may in fact be innocent contextually.
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This is not an easy read but it is a thoroughly rewarding one. For all that it is grim and disturbing, it is also compelling and beautifully written. The sparse and unfamiliar language sets the scene perfectly and it has a vibrancy that contrasts with the bleakness of the siblings' lives. I loved the descriptions of the natural environment and the relentless turning of the seasons. The complexities of the siblings' relationship are painful and poignant and the ending was all the more powerful and moving for its suddenness and brevity. Yes, there is the contentious issue of sibling incest but I feel it's done in a way that makes it seem as inevitable as it is shocking and it's more sympathetic than sensationalist. Overall, this is a remarkable novel that is heartbreakingly sad but also life affirming. I loved it.
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There are aspects of this book I enjoyed. It is well written and the descriptive language almost makes up for the strange relationship the siblings have with each other. I found the incest distasteful. Thank you to Netgalley for the complimentary copy.
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Loved this book and would highly recommend it!   Great storytelling and characters! Beautiful cover also!
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While beautifully written, the incest was too unsettling (and felt somewhat gratuitous - was it there just for the shock value?) and I cannot recommend this book.
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I actually loved this book so much that I sat back and didn't curate my wonderful review... Which is pretty awful. Sorry.

This isn't a comfortable read but I actually thought this book is one that will go on the curriculum for EngLit. So this is the short version. It was very well written bit it was deeply and utterly grim.
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I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately I had a very similar title on my list and accidently deleted this one. I shall be keeping an eye out for it on Amazon and book bub.
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The unusual language and the strangeness of the setting really make an intense reading, one that you can easily lose yourself into. But maybe it was a bit too strange and intense for me: I didn't really connect with the characters, who in some ways are much more mature than average teenagers, and in other ways don't have a clue about how they feel.
The writing is powerful, the atmosphere unreal, but I wished for a healthier relationship between brother and sister (without all the sexual awkwardness).
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I give this book three stars, not because it is not good, but because it did not quite click for me. I loved aspects of it, such as the creepy, sinister vibe. I also appreciate Michael Crummey’s writing style, which makes you feel the isolation and loneliness of the landscape.
However, I did not feel like I could connect to the characters. I found their dialog to be unnatural and their relationship unsettling. Their relationship is not in itself something I disliked, but my sexual sibling relationship tolerance has been saturated by my recent reads. Despite these small criticisms, I would still recommend it.
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On a desolate  part of the coast of Newfoundland lived the Best family. When their baby sister dies, followed by their parents, Evered & Ava are left to eke out a living in this wild place. Aged just eleven & nine, they draw on the memories of their parents activities to keep themselves alive. The fish they catch & preserve are scarcely enough to pay for the supplies they get from the visits of the supply boat. The account of their lives, their space contact with the outside world & the struggles of growing up is beautifully & descriptively told. 

This is not a read with a huge amount of action, nor is it a particularly cheerful. It is however a beautifully written one. It is an unusual book that will stay with me for a long time. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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"They had all their lives been the one thing the other looked to first and last, the one article needed to feel complete whatever else was taken from them or mislaid in the dark. But each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life."

Orphaned on the coast of Newfoundland, Ada (9) and Evered (11) set their faces to the wind and battle together through seasons and years to carve an existence for themselves as the elements rally against them. Set in the 18th century, they are completely isolated; visited only once a year by a goods vessel and with nothing other than the graves of their baby sister and an unnamed stranger, their world begins and ends with the horizon.

The stark beauty of Crummey's writing somewhat stunned me and so, despite finishing this title several weeks ago, I have been reluctant to pen my review in fear that I may dull some of its magic. How he maintains his grasp on the reader when most of the time he is describing the seasonal struggles of only two characters in one location, is remarkable. Furthermore, when they behave through instinct, unconstrained by social values and expectations beyond their boundaries and understanding, his storytelling enabled (and allowed) me to view them without judgement.

Read it. Enjoy it. Remember it. Tell other people about it. An absolute beauty.

My thanks to netgalley, the publisher and, of course, the author for sharing an advanced copy with me in return for my honest opinion.
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The Innocents by Michael Crummey is the story of  Ada and her brother Evered, who are orphaned at 10 and 12 respectively, miles from anyone, on the north coast of of Newfoundland.

This is the story of their battle to survive through the years, as they grow up.  It is very evocatively described, so you see the seasons as they come and go, and pick the berries or salt the fish.  You also see the children become teenagers, and the urges that come with that.

I found this a harrowing and heartbreaking read.  It is well written, but I found it a hard read as the siblings discover sexual urges and they are the only ones there.

 The Innocents  was published on 20th August, and is available from  Amazon ,  Waterstones  and from your  local independent bookshop .

You can follow Michael Cummey on  Twitter .

I was given this book in return for an unbiased review, and so my thanks to NetGalley and to  No Exit Press .
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I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It made me feel so sad...it’s well written, and the story is good, it’s just so sad.

The characters are well written, and I really felt for them, I understood them, and the situation they were in. I felt a lot of anger towards the parents for what they failed to teach them, but maybe it wasn’t their fault either.

It’s a very emotive book, I enjoyed reading it, it just made me so sad!

My thanks to Netgalley and Oldcastle Books for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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My thanks to No Exit Press Oldcastle Books for an advance reading copy via NetGalley of ‘The Innocents’ by Michael Crummey.

The novel was originally published in North America in late 2019 with its U.K. edition published in August 2020. It has already been shortlisted for two Canadian literary awards.

Set during the late eighteenth century in an isolated cove on the northern coast of Newfoundland, nine-year old Ada and eleven-year old Evered, lose their parents and baby sister to illness over a short period of time. 

The family work the land and sea and are visited twice yearly by a trading ship owned by the landowner that takes their salted catch and delivers vital supplies. It’s a precarious existence as there is an ongoing debt that the children automatically inherit. 

Ada is also adamant about remaining close to the grave of their baby sister and the children plead their case to remain in place rather than be removed to the local trading town. Life goes on season by season, year by year as they struggle to survive the weather and harsh conditions. As years pass they enter adolescence and things start to get more complicated in terms of their relationship.

Michael Crummey has spoken about coming across an account some years ago of a clergyman who had discovered two orphaned siblings in a remote cove. This story stayed with him and eventually inspired ‘The Innocents’. 

Michael Crummey is a poet and that is very evident in his lyrical writing style and his stunning descriptions of the stark Newfoundland landscapes. His writing brought this novel vividly alive. 

I will admit that some aspects of the novel did not make for comfortable reading. Historical novels chronicling people managing to survive in such raw conditions rarely are light reads. 

It wasn’t hard to make the symbolic link between the children’s names and the story of Adam and Eve, along with the theme of natural innocence and its eventual loss. The story of Cain and Abel also pop up in the narrative. 

Overall, a powerful novel that I expect will prove popular with reading groups as it offers great writing along with plenty of material for group discussion.

Note: I also received its WF Howes audiobook edition via NetGalley and I did a combined read listen. My online reviews linked below reflect my experience of both editions.
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Emotional gut wrenching read ,two orphans horrific environment. survival.Haunting a book that stays with you .I will be recommending this brilliant book of literary fiction,#netgaley#the innocents
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*Many thanks to Michael Crummey, Oldcastle Books and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
A powerful novel in which we are offered the fate of two children, orphans, who have to find ways to conquer the crude nature and survive. Although this is a historcial fiction, the history is not the main protagonist. It only gives the setting for the struggle and development.
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‘The Innocents’ is a strange book, which successfully unites horrors with beautifully stark descriptions of the Newfoundland weather as two siblings cope (remarkably well, in fact) on their own when their parents die.

I found it strange that no one in authority whisked them away and into foster care; indeed a character known as ‘the Beadle’ seems intent on ripping them off as they trade what they have fished and hunted for the essential goods he supplies. But the novel is set some time around the early 1800s, and on the very edge of civilisation. Only the tough survive. 

The author portrays innocence very well: if you don’t know that reading is a skill to be acquired, you assume it’s an innate ability that some have and some don’t. If you don’t know the facts of life or that incest is taboo, then what is stopping you taking comfort from the only other human being for hundreds of miles, with the inevitable outcome?

I particularly liked the way that every time the story began to seem too focused on the daily struggle of Evered and Ada, a passing ship would bring a motley crowd of eccentric characters with their own story to tell.

I would have liked to know what happened to the two youngsters as they enter adult life and move into town. 

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this unique story in return for an honest review, which I shall post as soon as permitted on Amazon UK.
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A beautifully written novel.

The gloomy dark, relentlessness of nature around this Newfoundland cove is vividly portrayed. I enjoyed the gorgeous language and the unique Newfoundland-isms within fascinating, to pick one of many the idea of a person being ''grumbletonian'' really tickled me.

I loved Ada and Evered's relationship at the beginning but as the characters and the plot develops my own reader's comfortability is pushed too far (think raw, unsettling). The key thing to remember is they are innocent and it is understandable in the context of this novel - I do understand why, but it is and will always remain an exploration I don't care to read about.

Overall, this book would make an incredible book club read as it is certain to provoke conversation. Crummey's powerful, lyrical writing resonates and I'll certainly hunt out and read his previous books.

A huge thanks to Anne Cater & No Exit Press for gifting me a copy in return for an open & honest review.

⭐⭐⭐
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The author has in numerous interviews described his inspiration for this novel – looking through some Newfoundland archives and stumbling across a story of a clergyman who found two orphans living alone in an isolated cove in the North of the area; seeing the girl appearing to be pregnant, and assuming incest might be involved, he tried to question them about their relationship but was driven off at gunpoint.

This story is in essence the author’s fictionalisation of that story – one that less investigates how the orphans came to be alone as what happened once they were – not just how two children would physically survive in such circumstances but how their physical and emotional development would take place.

The story is set in the 18th Century, in a remote cove where a small family live an isolated existence – once dictated by the fiercely seasonal weather: the seals coming in on the encroaching ice packs, the cod shoals following the caplin, foraging of plants and seaweed, a meagre crop of root vegetables, a trading boat visiting twice a year to swap their salt cod for supplies. 

When at the start of the story both parents and their baby sister Martha die in a very short period of time, the remaining boy and girl (aged 12 and 10 and named, in a rather clumsy inversion by the author I think of the Adam and Eve story – Evered and Ada) are left to fend for themselves in what is far from an earthly paradise “with the little knowledge of the world passed on haphazard and gleaned by chance.” including "The death of a horse is the life of a crow.", "Their baby sister died an innocent and sits at God’s right hand and hears their prayers." and "A body must bear what can’t be helped" - all of which recur in the story..

Their belief that Martha remains in the cove and their promise not to leave her means that when months later the trading ship finally visits they refuse to be taken back to the nearby trading town and instead eke out each year their existence, Martha and her spirit acting as something of a confidant to Ada (and a possible source of supernatural intervention).

They clumsily try and reproduce the life of their parents based on the imperfect knowledge and skills imparted to them – their isolated life sometimes broken up by outside visitors (some alive and some dead - "death of a horse is the life of a crow") who bring both new knowledge and insight and wider horizons which sometimes helps (the availability of plentiful hunting denied to their father by his poor eyesight and rusted rifle) and sometimes hinders (added sexual tension).  

Over time the book I feel gets a little too dominated by their children’s emerging sexuality ("A body must bear what can’t be helped") and the widely shared inspiration for the novel makes the trajectory of travel rather obvious..

And although there is a lot that is very authentic seeming in the world building which is at the heart of the novel I did struggle a little with the voice of the narrator – as I felt the voicing of the children’s thoughts and ideas was inconsistent – at one moment trying to represent their lack of knowledge of words and concepts, at the other using complex literary language.  

Overall I think this tale will appeal to many readers but it was not quite to my taste.

My thanks to Oldcastle Books for an ARC via NetGalley
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Really interesting writing and environment - lots of terminology / tasks unfamiliar. A kind of coming of age of ‘innocents’ - children in a position to make their own world while knowing almost nothing.
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