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Claire Mowat.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1983.
271pp, cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-7710-6549-3.

No grades given.
Reviewed by Jim Carter.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

This story of a mainland couple's stay in a Newfoundland outport is as graphic as any sociological report, and much more interesting. Set in the fictional village of Baleena, the novel has no real plot but is a personal account of events and impressions that Mowat has woven into a "fictional memoir." Many of the activities described are so unique to Newfoundland that this book should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the people of Canada's most eastern province.

Claire Mowat has a flair for succinctly picturing the strengths of outport people: their helpfulness, their courage, their ability to make the best of very limited resources. She also clearly points out the handicaps that their isolation and lack of earning ability places on their social life. For instance, with humour and sympathy, she shows the disruptive effects that the arrival of the telephone has on the community describing how fishermen, using the phone before dawn, wake everyone up because the phone is a party line. Her picture of the local library board, worried about weeding the collection, will strike a chord of recognition with many a librarian. However, the strength of her writing is not her description of outport life but her realization that she is an observer who is only allowed to see the surface of their lives. She herself admits that she and her husband were "out of synchronization with those around"; but this does not stop her taking part in the Newfoundland tradition of mumming or providing a very sympathetic picture of the problems created by a one-industry town. After living in the outport, even she feels a culture shock when she returns to Toronto for a visit. But in the end, she chooses the life of the mainland rather than stay and suffer the privations of life in Baleena. Highly recommended.

Jim Carter, Bay St. George C. C., Stephenville, NL.
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