ON THE SHELVES: Newfoundland and Labrador’s literature is a lot like its beaches – beautifully rugged and dangerously seductive


ST. JOHN’S, NL — It’s finally summer and books, magazines, blogs and social media are full of recommendations for summer reading on the beach.

These fun, frothy, romantic and thrilling books are meant to pass the warm hours lying on a towel on warm, soft sand as gentle turquoise waves lap gently on the shore.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, our beaches aren’t quite like that — and our books aren’t like that either.

Getting to a beach in Newfoundland and Labrador is a bit trickier, even on our best summer days. Our beaches are rocky and jagged. Sometimes they are covered with dead fish. The wind will absolutely knock your tiki drink over, even if you can find a flat spot to put it down. This green-gray water is going to be icy cold and has a fierce pull. You will probably need to bring your sweater and rain boots, maybe a rain jacket, just in case.

Megan Gail Coles. – Photo added

Our literature is a bit like that too. Don’t get me wrong, authors from Newfoundland and Labrador are fun, funny, exciting and romantic. But frothy and light they are not. There is usually a thread of darkness running through our books, a memory of hard times, a touch of grief.

Just as our coasts are all the more beautiful for their ruggedness, so the fiction of Newfoundland and Labrador is all the richer for its shadows.

So if you’re the intrepid type, go ahead and fill a thermos with tea and pack it for the four seasons. Try to find a sheltered spot, if you can, and pull out a Newfoundland and Labrador novel – the perfect read for a rocky beach.

Some suggestions from public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Bobbi French’s “The Good Women of Safe Harbour” is an unforgettable and uplifting novel about a woman finally living on her own terms and reclaiming the friendship of a lifetime for one last beautiful Newfoundland summer.
  • For Cormack McCarthy fans, Samuel Martin’s “When the Dead Are Shaved” is an intense and visceral crime thriller. Teffy begins to investigate the coded diary of a murdered sex worker in St. John’s and soon finds herself embroiled in the complex operations of a violent gang.
  • Summers in Newfoundland and Labrador are sometimes a little rainier than one would hope, but it’s just a good opportunity to make a cup of tea and get lost in “Satched”, a collection of brilliant and darkly comic poetry from Megan Gail Coles, one of our most exciting new authors. At Blue Moth, a run-down motel on the wrong side of the harbor, two talented sisters spend quiet summers growing up and becoming adults. Olivia Robinson’s Blue Moth Motel is a story of family, music and love.
  • Kelly Earle draws on her own experiences as well as interviews to tell stories that are so familiar to so many in “Newfoundland and Labrador in Rig Wives: Stories.” These stories of determination, perseverance and camaraderie shine a light on the lives of “women who wait”.
  • In “Hard Ticket: New Writing Made in Newfoundland”. Acclaimed author Lisa Moore presents 13 charged and magnetic stories of this province’s next generation of literary pioneers.
  • “The Wards” by Terry Doyle is the story of a family on the verge of upheaval. As the children take timid steps toward adulthood and independence, the world of family is thrown on its axis by a sudden illness.
  • Set in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the late 1960s, “The Good Thief” by Leo Furey is the story of 18-year-old Sonny McCluskey, the son of an eccentric father and a man on a mission. Like his hero, Robin Hood, Charlie McCluskey is determined to bring justice to the poor, one day at a time. Sonny’s father dies, leaving him the family business, a small auto repair shop, and a longtime family secret, along with a summary of his unique philosophy of making money and doing good. Sonny promises to uphold the family tradition, but the more he learns about his father’s checkered past, the harder it becomes.
The Good Thief by Leo Furey is one of many intriguing books offered by authors from Newfoundland and Labrador.  - Photo added
The Good Thief by Leo Furey is one of many intriguing books offered by authors from Newfoundland and Labrador. – Photo added

These books and more are available at your local library and anywhere through the Libby app. Grab or download a few to enjoy.

It’s going to be a great summer.


Emily Gushue is the Newfoundland and Labrador Collections Librarian for the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries.

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