Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reader's Diary #301- Victor Kendall & Victor G. Kendall: Out of the Sea (FINISHED)

Out of the Sea: A History of Ramea was written by my mother's cousins, so don't expect an unbiased review (though I'll try my best).

Ramea, for those of my readers who don't know (presumably most of you), is a small town situated on a group of islands bearing the same name, just off the Southern coast of Newfoundland. You have to take a ferry to get there, and the last time I did was back in 2004. Since the cod decline, the population has decreased to less than 800 people.

Oddly, this book wasn't self-published. I don't mean that as a commentary on the quality, but I'm surprised anyone foresaw a market for such a specialized book. Yet for all it's seemingly myopic focus, it would make an interesting read for anyone wishing to acquaint themselves with Newfoundland history. While each community may have it's own character and charm, I'm sure the history of Ramea is not vastly different than any of the outports around Newfoundland: a stubborn refusal to give up on a place despite the odds, lives dependent on (and at the mercy of) the sea, and an ability to create a sense of community amidst hard work and change.

For some people, this must seem like the same story that's been told time and time again when anyone mentions Newfoundland, but for me it was a chance to reconnect with a place, and more importantly, with the history of half my family. As a boy, I considered myself a Mutford, solely due to my surname. It's only as I grew older that I started to appreciate and want to learn more about my Kendall side. A History of Ramea is also a part of my history.

The book itself was well laid out, though perhaps some people would find it slightly disorienting. Separated into chapters devoted to various influential factors in Ramea's history, I was constantly on a trip through time, and back again. Chapters such as "The Fishery" began with descriptions of fishing in the early 1800s and followed it right up to the present (1991- the publication date). Then subsequent chapters would return to the 1800s as titles changed to "Churches," "Schools" and so forth. While this constant rewinding might bother some, I think it was necessary to provide focus for the book. Plus, from a literary standpoint, it somehow made history a part of the present.

Occasionally however, I did have some minor problems. First of all: the typos. The spelling was fine but on too many occasionswords rantogether withno spaces inbetween. Secondly, I questioned the diplomacy. I'm not implying that I wanted a lot of controversy, but I felt they played it rather safe. In particular, I was surprised not to see any mention of the tensions between the Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the discussions on the Churches. I understand that they were trying to keep things positive and avoid stepping on toes, but I have reason to suspect things weren't always so harmonious between the two factions. I'm not suggesting it was like Belfast, but it was a small island after all, and I'm sure some people imported old prejudices.

However, I enjoyed the book immensely and got more than I expected. On a personal side, I loved reading the chapter entitled, "The Ships of John Penny & Sons." I'm not especially interested in ships myself, by grandfather Kendall is near fanatical about them. After spending years working on schooners, he now builds models of them, as well as dories, and even wooden replicas of the old motors. Judging by the amount of detail the two Victors devoted to the topic, this love for ships seems to be a Kendall trait. It's not one that got passed to me, but still, it was interesting to see it in others.
(This marks my 2nd book completed for the Canadian Book Challenge. Since I've decided to do it the White Stripes Way, it fulfills my Newfoundland and Labrador pick.)


Chris said...

It's amazing how many of those small, local publishers there are out there. How would we find this stuff out if we didn't have them?!

John Mutford said...

Chris: This particular one was Harry Cuff Publications (they closed down last year). As you said, where would we be without the little guys?