Cover Image: The Innocents

The Innocents

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley,  Oldcastle Books and Michael Crummey for this advanced reader's copy in return for my honest review. I have such mixed emotions about this book. It's dark, unsettling and strangely compelling. It's difficult to stay I enjoyed it due to it's incestuous nature but I think it'll be the new My Dark Vanessa.
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A harsh and unsettling coming of age. Primal and unforgivable as the environment of Newfoundland in the 1800s must have been. The fact that I've anticipated where the story was going and that the main female character shared a name with my infant daughter made this rather hard to swallow. To top everything up, descriptions are so vivid, so thorough, that some of the scenes turned my stomach.

I usually enjoy this type of stories: "pioneers" in ruthless land, trying to tame the beast that is land and weather(or is it the other way around?), prevailing over their circumstances. But I guess for the modern mind is almost inconceivable of a pair of children(12 and 10 years old) to have to deal with the loss of their parents and sister while surviving an untameable brute! Truly fascinating reading about a piece of Newfoundland island, the flora and fauna, the customs of the times. As I've already said, Crummey's writing style truly breath life into everything from characters to story to the background, bringing the novel to life in an unforgettable, haunting way!
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Parts of this were beautifully rendered and even in the high temperatures I was reading in I still felt at times, like I was there in the freezing cold. 

But, I am not a reader who is always drawn into stories where the landscape plays such a pivotal role and this particular story didn't quite draw me in for this fact. Also, I just can't get down with the incest-y parts.
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The Innocents is set in nineteenth century Newfoundland and the innocents of the title are Evedred and Ada, oprphaned and left to fend for themselves. In a desolate cove they are at the mercy of nature and the seasons and must salt fish to exchange for provisions twice a year when The Hope arrives at the cove. As they fight for survival, their closeness is compromised especially as they face their personal changes, can they pull together and survive the challenges placed before them.

The Innocents is beautifully written and Michael Crummey’s skill as a writer is evident in that this book only has two main characters and is based in one location and can hold the readers attention.  In Evered and Ada he has creates an Adam and Eve like scenario, although Newfoundland is no Garden of Eden, it is more like Hell. They are orphaned when only about twelve and ten and only have their example of their parents to follow, how to catch fish, salt it, chop wood, dry it and barter for their provisions. What astounded me was their resilience and strength in adverse conditions, how they coped with the freezing temperatures and never gave up. What is interesting to watch is how they develop both as individuals and as a team. Puberty and their changing bodies, hormones running wild affect their moods and how they see each other. This is made even harder as they don’t understand what is happeneing, causing much confusion. There is so much to cope with in the conditions they find themselves in, and it makes for a fascinating read.

The sea and the harsh landscape are like extra characters in this book, in that they are in control of Ada and Evered, who have to develop and mould their lives to the seasons and weather. Michael Crummley paints a landscape that is both desolate and beautiful in equal measure. I could almost feel the cold, see the turbulant sea and hear all the different wildlife in their cove. The plot is dark in places and harrowing in it’s desolation and how Ada and Evered had to live, so don’t expect a light hearted read with this book. Saying this, it is still a compelling read that once you start you can’t put down, you need to follow Ada and Evered, find out what happens to them. My only criticism is that it needed quite abruptly.

The Innocents is one of those books that gets under your skin. I loved being almost a voyeur to Ada and Evered’s lives, how they grew and how their instincts for survival naurally kicked in. The lyrical and descriptive post draw the reader in, seeing and feeling the rugged landscape, the freezing cold and the tempestuous sea. This maybe dark and intense at times, but it is totally immersive and fascinating. Another fabulous read.
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A challenging story both in terms of content matter, but also in terms of the reader’s perceptions. The novel is beautifully written, poetic and prosaic in turns, but the characters are difficult for the reader to connect with for the majority of the story. The writer’s narration doesn’t dwell on the internal thoughts and feelings of the characters, we are given clues and indications to these, but the characters themselves seem to be quite disconnected from their own internal personas. This perhaps serves to emphasise their isolation from society, and how removed the two young characters are from the outside world. They have some knowledge of the way things are/the way things should be, gleaned from their parents and their interactions with visitors to their cove, but in the wider scale of things they are both quite innocent of societal standards and expectations. Where they deviate from these norms and expectations, we see this disconnect in their minds between their actions and their acceptance of their truths.

We follow the brother and sister from their early formative years, to finishing on a culmination of their loss of innocence at the cusp of adulthood. At its core the story almost takes on an Adam and Eve allegory, and whilst the story seems to wrap up fairly quickly at its ending, the writer provides some revelations that the characters are aware of the ramifications of their “fall from grace”. 

It can be quite a difficult read. We are made to question our perception of these characters as they grow up and make choices regarding their lives. Without the guidance of society or other adults, we are left to decide whether we judge or condemn their actions, or if they are truly innocent of the real understanding of what they do. For the most part it is a story where very little in terms of “action” occurs, the hardships of living in an isolated landscape taking centre stage. However, whilst it is at times difficult to “fall into” the narrative, with some seemingly historic turns of phrase creating a contrast of their rural life with modern times, the reader is swept along with a genuine interest of whether these characters will survive the challenges thrown at them. 

For me, this is not a novel that can be read lightly, and therefore wouldn’t be a novel I would recommend to students. For more mature readers, it would be an intriguing read, but some of the subject matter means that you would have to think carefully before recommending it.
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Loved,loved,loved ‘The Innocents’ by Michael Crummey. When it was cold I was cold. When it was dark I felt the dark. So atmospheric and eerie. The characters were so believable and yet unbelievable at the same time. The ending was perfect.
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This is an incredible book. I was gripped from the first page. Set in Newfoundland centuries ago, a family saga that at times is bleak due to the rough sea and the adverse weather conditions. You get to live the lives of the characters throughout the seasons and experience all the daily gains and losses.
The main characters are brother and sister  who have to survive on nothing. This does make it sound like a grim read however it is a story of very hard times and how they survive against all odds.
It is brilliant!
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This book was a pleasure to read as the writing was beautiful. It uses historic vocabulary which I actually quite enjoyed. Especially having to stop and define words I wasn’t familiar with before I could continue on.

Set sometime in the 1800’s in a remote cove on the Newfoundland cost. Brother and sister Evered and Ada, aged 12 and 10 are left to survive alone after their baby sister and Mother pass away from illness, shortly afterwards followed by their father.

𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲’𝘀 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗵𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝘁, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗿𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗻𝗼 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝘁.

Their existence is isolated. They picked up limited life skills from their parents but manage to continue surviving as their parents did before them, learning as they go. They spend the summers catching and drying fish to sell to The Hope, a boat that passes through twice a year, in exchange for winter supplies.

In winter they hole up inside to escape the harsh freezing weather. Only emerging come spring to watch for seals to top up their dwindling food store.

‘𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘃𝗲,’ 𝗖𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗵 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱. 𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗱. ‘𝗜 𝗱𝗼𝘂𝗯𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗯𝗲 𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝘄𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿,’ 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱. ‘𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝗳 𝗜 𝗮𝗺 𝘄𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴, 𝘄𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴.’

The concept of this book sounded similar to Where The Crawdads Sing which I absolutely loved. Unfortunately although beautifully written it did not hold my attention as well. There was no plot as such, it follows the mundane lives of the children over the years as they grow and mature into adults. 

They face many obstacles; hunger, illness and unexpected visitors to their isolated cove. It explores childhood innocence, follows them through puberty and onto sexual maturity. There are some disturbing sexual elements to this book which I wasn’t expecting and found hard to read.

𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗮 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘁 𝗶𝘁, 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲.

I believe this is based on a true account of abandoned siblings surviving alone. I liked the concept and enjoyed the writing but it was quite hard to continue reading at times without any clear plot and not really knowing where it was going.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher No Exit Press and the author for letting me read and review an advance copy of this book.
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This book is up in my top reads this year - what a story!

Ada and Evered are orphans, alone on a remote bay of Newfoundland, with their parents and baby sister recently deceased. They must learn by themselves the relentless and exhausting tasks they need to do to survive, catching and salting the fish that they can sell twice a year, feeding themselves, maintaining a vegetable garden and their little home all within the harsh, harsh weather and with no other human contact.

Their life settles into the routine of the seasons, with few moments of joy, all just never-ending work. Yet inevitably they are growing up, and going through puberty at the same time. The twice-yearly contact with The Hope when it comes to buy their fish marks a new season on the calendar, and gives them new knowledge of the wider world. 

I loved the characters - Ada and Evered, sheltered and innocent, have to learn life from scratch, from each other, and gradually from their limited contact with the outside world. Their parents have left them with the barest knowledge of how to survive, and seeing them piece it all together was so satisfying. Naturally they experience emotions, the pangs of growing up, and illness as any other person - the arrival of a new ship while they are suffering illness is a great part of the story - the new characters which are introduced form a great part of the education which takes place. Their love for each other is another thing whose boundaries they must discover and explore.

Ada and Evered have been so sheltered they know nothing of the geography beyond their immediate environment, and Ada's only experience of women's issues is watching the birth of her baby sister. I just loved watching them discover everything - Michael Crummey writes with such vivid descriptive power that I saw everything so clearly.

Can't recommend this enough - I will definitely be buying this for other people.
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This is an unusual book  - the story of two young children orphaned and struggling to survive in a harsh environment.  Their fight to eat, to stay warm, to stay alive is believable and at times lyrical as the seasons come and go and they grow to maturity.  The title and their solitary lives invoke thoughts of Adam and Eve, and the shame they feel about their growing sexuality adds to this.  

Initially I was very involved in the narrative, but as it went on and other characters were introduced I lost focus a little.  However it is certainly one of the most unusual novels I've read this year.
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I know so many people have loved this book but it really missed the mark for me. There is no doubt that Michael Crummey is a talented writer and some of his prose is beautiful to read. However the story itself was dull. I appreciated some of the themes it touched on and what the book was trying to do, but it did not click with me and I found it quite a slog to get through unfortunately. 
Thank you to Oldcastle Books and Netgalley for the ARC.
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I devoured this book whole in one sitting. I’ve never read anything by the author before but I will now. I love well researched historical fiction and this novel was impeccable. Clearly well researched by Crummey, the vocabulary and the way the children spoke felt totally authentic. There is a wonderful cadence to the story as the years come and go but with each passing year comes changes to the plot; a visitor, a hard winter, sexual awakening. The contrast of the ordinary and the new is well balanced and makes the book feel rhythmic rather than repetitious. 
Crummey’s descriptive powers are such that I really felt transported to Newfoundland in all seasons and weathers. 
Yes the subject matter is hard going but the language is so beautifully used that you are just there, in the moment, experiencing it along with Evered and Ada. The story was left ripe for a sequel, I wonder if the author will oblige?
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This is a story of survival. A brother and sister are left to fend for themselves on a remote island off Newfoundland when their parents and baby sister die in quick succession. A supply boat comes to bring provisions twice a year in exchange for their catch of prepared fish. There is no explanation as to why the family have chosen this harsh way of life. The children muddle along with what little knowledge they gained by working alongside their parents. They cannot read or write and are totally ignorant of the wider world. The main theme is their burgeoning sexuality and how they cope with this. I cannot say I enjoyed this book - I skipped a lot of the descriptions of how they did things; I felt I had read stories on similar themes before. However it was well-written and the characters, if not likable, were believable.
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This is a book which both wowed and disappointed me. The setting, the atmosphere of the remote cove and the harsh conditions together with the reflections on life, family and relationships are wonderfully written and authentic. The main and sordid storyline was too much for me.
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The Innocents
By Michael Crummey

Newfoundland in the late 1800s, a family living on the harsh and remote coast live a hard life, and the book begins with the death of the mother, her new born infant and soon after the father, leaving siblings Ada and Evered aged 10 and 12 alone in the world. Using only the knowledge they have of day to day life they manage to continue fishing for cod and barter trade with ‘The Beadle’ on The Hope, a trade ship which passes their cove twice a year. Much of the book depicts the monotony of days and the work that Ada and Evered do to survive, but also their small pleasures found in the simple acts of berry picking and discovering washed up items on the shore. Life is rarely punctuated with interaction from others, and the children understand little of the world outside their cove. 

This is a difficult novel to read, not only because of the drudgery of the lives of children, but because their cove is known by those who pass by as Orphan Cove, and yet no-one removes them from their hardship. The story also takes us down a dark path to very uncomfortable subject matter, which is difficult reading, and I confess I had to skim read some paragraphs due to it’s nature. The connotations with Adam and Eve, and the ignorance of the innocents does not make for light hearted reading. I also struggled with scenes of animal suffering.

However, the author’s use of language is poetic and lyrical; the portrayal of coast and land, seasons and atmosphere are vivid and evocative throughout and, when mingled with unusual colloquial historic vocabulary, makes for a profound and arresting read. Based on this, I’d be interested to read other books by the author. 

Many thanks to Michael Crummey, No Exit Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this book.
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Ada and Evered are siblings, attempting to survive on a small, barren stretch of land that is battered by sea winds and harsh winters. Their parents are dead and the only option for their continued existence is to uproot to the nearest town, unless they can follow in their parents hard-working footsteps and make this inhospitable land their home.

Given the synopsis and isolated setting, I anticipated this story to be one akin to the unsettling The Water Cure but instead received something closer to Little House on the Prairie. Both books explained the day-to-day running of their home and the exhausting, endless methods necessary just to survive. This, however, was a far bleaker tale and there were few moments of merriment for the starving and lonely duo.

Years passed and still they remained. The focus too remained on their attempts at survival and also their growing bodies and sensibilities. It was interesting to see the pair grow from children, to teenagers, to young adults and still largely keep their innocent perspectives intact.

Although I remained interested throughout, the repetitive nature of the fight for survival meant this wasn’t a story I felt I would take a lot from. This also concluded as I imagined it would, but was no less an enjoyable read for me, for that reason. Throughout, I had no negative emotions and finished it with no bad words to say. The somewhat ambivalent rating and placid feelings stem from this merely being not exactly the sort of read I gravitate towards but am, nonetheless, glad to have experienced it.
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This is a story of isolation, hardship and survival. It's beautifully written, and highly evocative. I found myself shivering at the descriptions of snow and ice. My heart went out to Ava and her brother - their ignorance and innocence, combined with their strength and grit. Gripping read,
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This story really excelled when it talks of the two orphans and their struggles.
The harsh winters,the fishing,the relentless toil just to survive to the next arrival of the boat with supplies.
Bringing in other characters lessened that story for me,but they brought other sides to the kids story that made it interesting.
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A story of struggle and survivial. A study of the consequences of isolation. An examination of how, without the knowledge of accepted boundaries, two youngsters will navigate a course through their formative years. 

These are just some of the themes that can be found in Michael Crummey's gripping and profound psychological novel that differs in its complexity and insight from the normal period set historical novel. 

Set in the harsh and remote environment of a cove on the Newfoundland coast, around, I would surmise, the turn of the 19th century, we find Evered and his sister Ada about to be orphaned. 

Alone and dependent on selling enough fish to obtain supplies from a ship that comes twice a year, these two children must learn to survive and adapt to a life without adult guidance. 

Each word appears carefully chosen and conveys the beauty and reality of nature. 
The relationship between humanity and nature and the gradual changes that effect relationships between humans is skilfully examined. 

At the end of the book, Evered and Ada will be far different people than at the start. 

This is a haunting tale and a remarkable account of the human condition and its resilience. 
Powerful and moving, it is well worth a read.
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