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The Adversary

A Novel

by Michael Crummey

The Adversary by Michael Crummey X
The Adversary by Michael Crummey
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  • Published Feb 2024
    336 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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  • Janet C. (st. petersburg, FL)
    The Adversary by Michael Crummey
    Set in Newfoundland during brutal winters, this book tells the tale of a brother and sister battling for control of their coastal fishing and mercantile port in the late 1700s.

    The story is violent and cruel which is at times hard to read. The characters are well-developed but so unlikeable it was difficult for me to choose to root for either of them (or the other characters for that matter).

    The author does a fabulous job with his archaic language usage and descriptive prose which kept this vocabulary lover entranced in the book.

    I am looking forward to reading more from Mr. Crummey. Thank you BookBrowse and NetGalley for pointing me toward this book and author.
  • Patricia G. (Washington, DC)
    One of Michael Crummey's best efforts
    Michael Crummey's sixth historical novel is set in the isolated port town of Mockbeggar, Newfoundland, sometime in the late nineteenth century. Two sworn enemies, siblings Abe Strapp and the Widow Caines, are pitted against each other in a ruthless battle over commerce and resources, and innocent lives are ultimately drawn into the battle. Mockbeggar is populated with hard working and resourceful folk, who persist in life and love despite plague, pirates and devastating storms. As with most of his novels, the bleak and unforgiving landscape shapes the characters and moves the plot forward.

    The most outstanding feature of the book is his use of language. Crummey is the rare author who can completely let the characters tell the story, perhaps because he is also an accomplished poet, (he has published seven books of poetry). Every character, no matter how minor, is fully formed on the page. His prose is dark, but absolutely compelling. I was several chapters into the book when I realized that I had no idea what was happening in the story, but I was mesmerized by the writing and could not put the book down until I found out. However, by the end, it all comes together.

    I personally think this is one of his best books. In spite of the dark themes and shocking finale, The Adversary is amazing. Crummey shows how against seemingly impossible odds, the human spirit perseveres. I strongly recommend this book.
  • John W. (Saint Louis, MO)
    Disturbing Tale about Sibling Rivalry
    This was my first but not last book written by Michael Crummey. I plan to read The Innocents next to determine whether it will give me further insights into The Adversary. If you want a book where one or more of the main characters are likeable, you won't find it in this book. it is a dark tale set in rugged 18 century Newfoundland. It's offenses followed by counter-offenses with little compassion or caring for the damage caused. The people caught in the middle of the power struggle are who you root for in this book.
  • Ruthie A. (Jersey City, NJ)
    Another amazing novel by Michael Crummy
    I love Michael Crummy, He is one of my favourite authors. That being said he does not write sunny, shiny novels, he writes about hardship, strife, conflict and darkness. His characters live in remote communities in Newfoundland usually reliant on the fishing industry. The lifestyle is rough and danger is everywhere, from the elements, the work, and most importantly the people. Tough times means tough people, add in religion, superstition, lack of true law and order, lack of education and you are going to have danger, suspicion, fear and trauma.

    This novel revolves around two wealthy siblings Abe Strapp and his sister, the Widow Caines, both of whom are truly horrible people. Abe is a true bully, a bully with power who answers to no one. His sister is more cunning and controlled. Their evil manifests itself very differently and the havoc they wreck upon one another as well as the rest of the community seems endless. The one person who could restore some sense of order, the Anglican Beadle Clinch, is as, if not more corrupt than anyone else. That leaves the rest of the townspeople at their mercy.

    The story is compelling, I struggled to put down this book! I was usually reading with a sense of dread, so this is not a relaxing beach book! The writing is, as always, poetic and evocative. Crummy manages to make the reader feel as if they are truly in this small village, experiencing the cold, the sea, the hunger and the fear. No one will protect the helpless villagers, they must try to keep their heads down and avoid the wrath of Strapp or the machinations of the Widow. On top of the horrors of the humans are the natural elements; neither the sea nor the weather show any mercy. Outsiders are also a danger. It is a wonder anyone survives.

    It all sounds very grim, but it is a most impressive, unforgettable novel, as are all of the offerings by Michael Crummy.
  • Jill S. (Durham, NC)
    Power dynamics gone awry: dark, quirky and excellent
    If you've ever read Michael Crummey's novels, you know you can expect a few things: a dark, ambiance-rich Newfoundland setting, quirky and superbly crafted characters, and stunningly written prose. In The Adversary, he outdoes himself. This is his best book yet.

    Set in a small fishing village called Mockbeggar in the 18th century, there are really three adversaries here. One is Abe Strapp, a thoroughly immoral and corrupt dispenser of justice (who strongly resembles a certain political figure, which I believe is deliberate). The other: Abe's older sister, the Widow Caines, a Quaker who is distinguished by her pipe and the donning of her dead husband's clothing, her pet crow, and her sharp tongue. To say they despise each other is putting it mildly. The third person, The Anglican, holier-than-thou Beadle, who has yoked himself to Abe Strapp.

    Don't expect any "likable" characters or redemption here. This is a series of offenses and counter-offenses, with vindictive and yet riveting characters, determined to triumph in controlling Caines Mercantile, uncaring about the wreckage they leave in their wake.

    The novel has plenty to keep readers glued to the page: a sibling relationship that gives new meaning to dysfunction, invading marauders, Abe's depraved brothel, scalding, amputations, public whippings, devastating storms, hypocritical religious leaders, a pandemic, and more. Yes, it's a dark tale that focuses on corruption and ruthlessness. But Michael Crummey knows how to milk some of the scenes for entertainment. Think of the old evening soap opera Dallas. You get this: villainous characters who fascinate and repel the reader. It is also a cautionary tale on power dynamics, relevant for today.

    I loved this novel and couldn't tear myself away from it. I thank BookBrowse, Doubleday, and NetGalley for enabling me to be an early reader in exchange for an honest review.
  • Carol R. (North Mankato, MN)
    Stick with it!
    I wanted to quit reading this book after a chapter or two because I couldn't understand most of the story. The desolate setting of Mockbeggar, Newfoundland, as well as the numerous characters with odd names, and archaic language, made this a difficult book to read. Eventually the true (evil) character of dysfunctional siblings, Abe Strap and Window Caines, unfolds as the townspeople became collateral damage in their ongoing competition to control the commerce of the area. Anglican Beadle, the third main character, aligned himself with Abe but I hoped he would take the high road and save the village from imploding. It turns out he is perhaps the most cunning and powerful person in the village. While the book is a dark and violent, I found myself rooting for the powerless village inhabitants. The many unusual characters, disastrous weather, hunger, disease, and barbaric medical care, and a good dose of sexual innuendo kept me reading.

    I am not sure I would recommend to my book club as the violence, difficult language, and large and complex cast of characters would be off putting to many. I, however, intend to read more of Michael Crummey!
  • Janice A. (Colfax, WI)
    The Adversary - Dark yet Intriguing
    There were times while reading this book I debated whether to continue. The Adversary is full of quirky characters, debauchery, and violence yet also includes acts of kindness and a sense of community. Michael Crummy sets the book on the coast of Newfoundland, Canada during the early to mid-1800s. The main characters, Abe Stabb and a women known as The Widow, own the two major fish warehouses. Each provide for the salting, storage, and exporting of locally caught fish along with the importation of people and goods. Not only are they business adversaries, each has much different views of supporting and growing the community. Overall, the book is dark yet there were times that I laughed out loud.
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