• Lively tales of outport Newfoundland passed father to son

    in #73 Fall 2013/History/Reviews by

    The Yarns We HadA yarn is a story; “to yarn” is to tell it. Deeply vernacular, this book’s 41 chapters are short tales, or clusters of tales, concerning “life in outport Newfoundland [Twillingate and environs] in the early to mid-20th century: a period when times were very difficult …”, “times were hard,” or, alternatively, “times were more than hard.” But the people had a sense of humour.

    Everything about the setup forewarns cliché, but the writing largely dodges that. There are the usual cultural motifs: hard tack, berry picking, sailing. But author Cyril Greenham keeps them straightforward, not saccharine, tacking toward humour stoked with frankness and even profanity.

    It’s specific to a place and a time, and even to a family—Greenham’s father’s is often the yarn’s originator—but the pieces are also open to a broader audience. Terms and events are explained and contextualized, and the book includes lots of black and white photographs for reference.

    The Yarns We Had
    by Cyril W. Greenham
    $19.95, paperback, 175 pp.
    Flanker Press, February 2013


  • Joan Sullivan lives and writes in St. John's where she is the editor of the Newfoundland Quarterly. Her book In the Field won the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for non-fiction in 2013. Her new book, The Long Run, will be published by Breakwater this fall.

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