Michael Crummey's Galore is a magical roundelay of stories and characters, historical and fantastical. It opens with a mysterious man found in the belly of a whale, and goes full-speed from there, sketching the harsh life to be had from trying to make a living from the sea. Life and death viscerally cycles round and round, with echoes biblical and poetic through the rest of the book.
The novel is set in a wild, cold Newfoundland, where it never seems to be summer, the temperature always cold and wet, with snow on the ground, a fireplace burning, ice on the water nearby. The book also seems out of time, as the tales told wind through multiple generations of two families, the Sellers and the Devines.
Their stories aren't anchored in any century until the last third of the book, and the reader may be disappointed to find real events encroaching on this fabulous fairytale. The kaleidoscopic nature of Galore may be best encapsulated by this passage, " 'Now the once,' she said. It was the oddest expression he'd learned on the shore. Now the once. The present twined with the past to mean soon, a bit later, some unspecified point in the future. As if it was all the same finally, as if time was a single moment endlessly circling on itself."
The way people talk, both in local dialect and Irish-inflected, gives the book a unique flavor. Galore is constructed of many anecdotes and tall tales, told out of sequence. The overall effect is as if you were at someone's family dinner table listening to old family scandals which grow more and more outlandish as the wine flows throughout the evening.
And as there are multiple characters with multiple points of view, there are also multiple ways to tell the same story, “It was called the French cemetery, King-me told him, because the first people buried there were sailors drowned when a French ship wrecked on the Tolt a hundred years before. Or because the land once belonged to a man named French who buried a wife and child during a typhoid outbreak before he was cut down himself. Sellers seemed to have no idea which story was the true source of the name and no obvious preference for one over the other.”