Sunday, August 4, 2013
River Thieves by Michael Crummey
The year is 1810 and life in Newfoundland is not easy. It is populated by the fishermen and trappers who have settled there, and by the native Americans whose land it was before they came. One of the most prominent families are the Peytons. Peyton Senior has trapped and fished for many years. He left his family life in England behind to make a life in this new country. His son, John, is now grown and taking over the family businesses. They also have a housekeeper, Cassie, who came as John's tutor and stayed after he grew up.
The British military is concerned about relations with the Native Americans. There have been incidents on both sides; the Indians stealing items from the frontiersmen to discourage them, and retaliation that leads to violence. The government decides to try to contact the remaining Indians and try to create a relationship with them. In order to do so, they need the help of the men who are involved in the strife between the two groups.
The novel details the lonely, difficult life each group leads while trying to survive in a bleak environment. Communication is strained, and the results are more incidents as each group tries to emerge as the stronger. A group of trappers mount an expedition into Indian territory and bring back a female captive. What occurs on the expedition and the government's response to it will have far-reaching consequences.
Michael Crummey has written a fascinating historical fiction about life in a part of the North American continent many don't know that much about. River Thieves is his first novel and is a winner of the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award. It was also a finalist for the Giller Prize, The Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Books In Canada First Novel Award. Readers will learn about Newfoundland and the people who settled there from England and France. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.