“The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod [Recommendation] + Introduction

The beginning may be a very good place to start, but as I began typing this first post, I realized very quickly that finding where to begin is a daunting task. The dilemma:  how do you introduce yourself – a mostly anonymous entity-  to an nonexistent unseen audience on the Internet without revealing too much, or too little to allow visitors to get to know you or want to get to know you and what you have to share?

To kill two birds with one stone, I thought it would be appropriate to share a recommendation— a short story that I greatly admire for its literary beauty and love for personal reasons. I hope to convey a sense of the sort of literature I enjoy and give a heads up on what to expect from this blogging project of mine.

But firstly, here are a few facts about myself. 🙂

My name is Clara. On the Internet, I go by the pseudonym Ferrinas, though you may also find me as Axel F.. I’m currently a student living in Canada who loves learning about history, science and languages. In my spare time, I read, knit, and occasionally jot down random ideas for stories and essays I never end up writing. I love talking about literature, but I rarely get the opportunity to do so. I hope that I can share my musings and a few other things on this blog with others who are passionate about books.

I primarily read classics, but I’m very open to other genres of literature. I don’t write nearly as much as I read and I don’t have any particularly strong aspirations to be published, though if I ever did write a book, I think it would be non-fiction (I love doing research!) or at the very least, historical fiction with exorbitant amounts of detail.

Now, on to the recommendation!

“The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod

“The Boat” is one of seven stories featured in The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, which was first published in 1976 . The short stories in this collection share a common setting: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. While I haven’t read all of the stories, I feel that they all may also share a common theme: the gradual passing of a way of life.

It was my English teacher who introduced the story to me as part of our ‘epiphany unit’ at school. I remember she said at the beginning that it was her favourite short story and that it made her cry at times. I remember tearing up at the end because it was indeed, very sad.

The author does a wonderful job of evoking a sense of tragedy through the narrator’s voice, which is compounded by imagery of the sea and all the joys and sorrows it brings to him and the people around him.

Take this sentence from the first page:

There are times when I am half out of bed and fumbling for socks and mumbling for words before I realize that I am foolishly alone, that no one waits at the base of the stairs and no boat rides restlessly in the waters of the pier.

For generations, the sea has been a source of livelihood and pride for the fishermen of Cape Breton Island and their families. The narrator,who heralds from one such family, must choose between following in his father’s footsteps in accordance to his mother’s wishes or completing his education and moving on, as his older sisters have done. His father – the most important, most constant figure in his life- unwillingly became a fisherman himself and wishes to see his son do better things, rather than be stifled by a gradually fading tradition. But as his father grows older, the narrator feels he has an obligation to uphold the family tradition and to abandon his own “silly shallow selfish dream”. Eventually, his father makes a sacrifice that forces him to change his mind, but it comes at a terrible cost that continues to haunt him many years later, even when he has everything he wished for.

An excerpt of “The Boat” can be read here.

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A brief side note:  After that rather depressing recommendation, I think it’s important to say here that I don’t only read/like sad stories. I like happy endings in my stories just as I do in real life. However, looking back on the novels I’ve read so far this year and in the past year, there’s a definite trend of ‘unhappy’ literature. I think this is because the human spirit seems to shine the brightest in the most harrowing of situations and I find those moments of triumph over adversity exhilarating to read. But I’ll stop here; that’s another topic for another time.

If you’ve endured this rather lengthy post up to this point, thank you very much for sticking through. If I could, I would send you cookies! 🙂

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1 Comment

Filed under literature, recommendation

One response to ““The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod [Recommendation] + Introduction

  1. Yasmin

    More reviews! And I love the boat 😦 And I miss Ms. Billinghurst.

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