Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BOOK: Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins

Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins, 190 pages

5th Canadian Book Challenge

This summer I made my first trip to Newfoundland. While I spent most of my time in basketball gymnasiums and supervising twelve fourteen year old boys, I did manage to sneak off one afternoon to downtown St John's for some shopping. I poked in every little craft shop, ate fish and chips at Duke's, and had a drink on George Street. It was wonderful. I was looking for souvenirs - got some screech coffee, moose socks, a jellybean row picture, and I wanted to buy a Newfoundland book. Something that would feel like a find, an unknown quantity. I managed that, with Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins.

Moonlight Sketches is a collection of short stories that are part of a bigger story. Beginning before the Ocean Ranger sank, and progressing (not always linearly) to the present, the town of Darwin (population 2500) is the setting for most of the stories. Life changes as the cod fishery ends, oil comes in and small villages disintegrate. The stories are more about the individual people that live in Newfoundland, but from a distance, by the end, you see how Darwin has changed.

I was hoping for more overlapping characters, and eventually a few stood out. Tough guy Benny and his cousin Dave make appearances in several stories (it feels like there could be a novel beginning) as does Jack of Jack's Place, the bar in Darwin. Jack's Place figures prominently in "Two Lesbians Walk Into a Bar", which also shows the dark underbelly of life in a small town where everyone knows everybody. "The Darkness and Darcy Knight" might put you to mind of Deliverance, if I know what Deliverance is actually about. Overall, there is a dark feel to these stories; life on the Rock isn't easy. But I enjoyed reading this collection, and will probably reread a few now that I know some of the characters better.