Sylvanus Now

Overview

"Breathtakingly beautiful."—Alistair MacLeod
On Canada's Atlantic coast at the edge of the great Newfoundland fishing banks of the 1950s, Sylvanus Now is a handsome and willful fisherman. His youthful desires are simple: he wants a suit to lure a girl—the fine-boned beauty Adelaide—and he knows exactly how much fish he has to catch to pay for it. Adelaide, however, has other dreams. She longs to escape the sea, the fish, and the stultifying community, but her need for refuge from her own troubled family leads her...

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Overview

"Breathtakingly beautiful."—Alistair MacLeod
On Canada's Atlantic coast at the edge of the great Newfoundland fishing banks of the 1950s, Sylvanus Now is a handsome and willful fisherman. His youthful desires are simple: he wants a suit to lure a girl—the fine-boned beauty Adelaide—and he knows exactly how much fish he has to catch to pay for it. Adelaide, however, has other dreams. She longs to escape the sea, the fish, and the stultifying community, but her need for refuge from her own troubled family leads her to Sylvanus and life in the neighboring port.
Through this story of love, loss, and facing the inevitabilities of life in a floundering community, the sea is a potent presence, modernization ravaging its shores and bringing it to the cusp of cataclysmic change. Ultimately, Sylvanus Now is a story of redemption against all odds "in a world vanished, but brought vividly back to life in Morrissey's caring hands" (Quill and Quire).

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
This is a perfectly lovely novel, written in a style and language that evoke the atmosphere of Newfoundland, Canada from 1947 to the early ‘60s. When the novel begins, young Sylvanus Now is beginning to fish in the tradition of his father and ancestors in a small boat, using a jig line, bringing up each fish by the strength of his own arms. It is a hard life, but one he loves, in spite of the fact that his father and brother drowned in the sea that gave them sustenance. When Sylvanus sees a beautiful young girl at a local dance, he falls in love. Adelaide is not interested in marrying a fisherman. She had high hopes for her own future, but instead was pulled out of school to work salting fish and taking care of her mother's ever-increasing brood. With her reputation for standoffishness, she and Sylvanus make an odd pair and when three pregnancies and three dead babies occur, she becomes even more reclusive. Meanwhile, bigger and more boats, often foreign, and large fish processing plants are quickly changing their way of life. The story is beautifully written and the characters are well developed. The settings are wonderfully described and the underlying socio-economic issue is interesting and tragic. Younger YAs will probably not appreciate the many layers of the story, but older readers will. This is an excellent novel. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Norton, 326p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
As in her noted previous novels (Kit's Law and Downhill Chance), Morrissey's latest takes place in remote coastal Newfoundland. It is the 1950s, and the fishing trade is being transformed. Sylvanus Now-a proud and stubborn fisherman whose father and older brother drowned at sea-believes that all he requires to make his life complete is to win over the melancholic and aloof Adelaide; he would build her a home away from her large and chaotic family and thus end her life of cleaning fish on the flakes. Yet he does not anticipate the threats from both the huge foreign trawlers scooping up fish from the spawning grounds and from the government, which plans to improve the lives of independent fisherman like Sylvanus by building factory-freezer plants and re-settling them in larger communities with better roads, schools, and services. The story of their precarious lives is a lesson in the economy and ecology of the fishing industry wrapped up in the colorful vernacular of a novel as fierce as it is uplifting. Recommended for all public libraries.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A way of life is compromised and threatened, and life goes stubbornly on, in the Canadian author's third novel, following Downhill Chance (2003). Set in small villages along the Newfoundland fishing banks during the 1950s, it's the story of two families whose meager fortunes wax and wane as the business of cod-fishing is shaped by depleted resources, restrictive government policies and new technologies that render old ways obsolete (e.g., "Freezing fish is a better way of keeping them than salting. Bigger boats is a better way of catching them"). Morrissey dramatizes such changes in the experiences of the eponymous Sylvanus, hardy youngest son of a clan whose father and eldest son perished at sea, and headstrong Adelaide, the first-born in a sprawling crowd of siblings, whom their perpetually pregnant mother Florry has appointed "Addie" to care for. Dreaming of a fuller life, Addie marries doggedly devoted Sylvanus, who builds her a house, works tirelessly for her and gives her three babies, all stillborn, and buried in modest graves that the embittered Addie cannot bring herself to visit. Years pass; the families of Ragged Rock (Addie's hometown) and Cooney Arm (where the Nows reside) struggle to survive, avoid the threat of government "resettlement" and adjust to the lingering burdens of their memories and their ghosts. And Morrissey's people-stoical Sylvanus and resilient Addie (whose intimate moments and violent arguments alike throb with painful credibility), their hardbitten and longsuffering parents and relations-assume a near-mythic intensity reminiscent of Halld-r Laxness's epic portrayals of indomitable working souls. No conventional happy ending is possible, but reconciliationand acceptance are achieved, in a moving denouement that proves the truth of Florry's weary pronouncement, "If it weren't for keeping things simple, nothing would ever get done."Absorbing human drama, in Morrissey's best yet.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143014256
  • Publisher: BPR Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Morrissey is the award-winning author of Kit’s Law and Downhill Chance, and the screenplay Clothesline Patch. She grew up in the Beaches, a small fishing port in Newfoundland, and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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