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River Thieves

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,040 ratings  ·  80 reviews
River Thieves is a beautifully written and compelling novel that breathes life into the pivotal events which shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland and European settlers. Following a series of expeditions made under the order of the British Crown, the reader witnesses the tragic fallout from these missions as the Beothuk vanish and the web of secrets ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Canongate Books (first published September 11th 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,954)
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Susan Oleksiw
In the early 1800s the territory that will become Newfoundland is still populated by Beothuk, Micmac, and various Europeans engaged in hunting, trapping and fishing. The British governor hopes to establish cordial relations with the Beothuk, also called Red Indians for the red ochre they used to paint their bodies. Responding to his call to bring back a Beothuk who will learn English and serve as an intermediary, John Peyton and a band of men find a camp and capture a Beothuk woman, setting in m ...more
Fabulous story about a vanishing ( or already vanished breed?) of Indians in Newfoundland. The characters are strong and memorable, the terrain rough and unforgiving - a great place to situate a story.
Jun 15, 2011 Irene added it
I LOVED Michael Crummy's second novel, The Wreckage. I had River Thieves for months before starting it, for fear of being disappointed. I wasn't ready until Galore was published. As it turns out, I was disappointed, which is not to say River Thieves is not a very good book. It's just very different from The Wreckage. It is Michael Crummy's first novel. What disappointed me was that I had to really work to get into the book, unlike the Wreckage which had me hooked right from the beginning. That s ...more
Barbara Sibbald
I'm a big fan of Michael Crummy's later novel, Galore, so I had high expectations for River Thieves and I was not disappointed. The story is masterfully told; the characters are incredibly vivid and believable as they struggle in the harsh climate of northern Newfoundland in the early 19th century. Of particular note is the last chapter or so, which contains some stunning metaphors and some of the finest writing I've ever read. One scene that sticks in my mind is when Peyton returns Buchan's not ...more
Mary Billinghurst
I reread this novel for a presentation I have volunteered to do at the library. Honestly, I rarely reread books anymore since I have so many new ones I want to get through, but I am very glad I picked up River Thieves again. It is very good.

I love Crummey's narrative technique in this book. He outlines the key event of the plot (the capture of a Beothuk woman) at the very beginning, and then he returns to this moment many times as the story develops. Each time, we learn more details. It is as if
Gerry Burnie
Gerry B's Book Reviews -

My bio reads in part: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered, and River Thieves by Michael Crummey [Anchor Canada, 2009] is a case on point.

The Beothuk (pronounced “beo-thuk”) people of Newfoundland, a.k.a. “The Red Indians” because of the red ochre they smeared on their bodies, are truly one of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of it. They are referred to as a “population isolate”
Jun 27, 2010 Ollie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Newfies, people interested in Canada's history, misery guts
Recommended to Ollie by: bookclub
I never in a million years would have picked up this book if it hadn't been for my book club. And that's a sad thing to realise after finishing a very satisfying read. It turns out that Michael Crummey is a respected poet and prose writer in Canada, winning many awards with River Thieves as well as with his poetry collections. I can see why.

Set in the early part of the 1800s in Newfoundland (where Crummey is from), River Thieves is a sombre historical novel that charts the conflicts and misunder
Jay Warner
Michael Crummey hails from Nova Scotia, where the book is set, so its no wonder he can describe in such intimate detail the little rivers and creeks, necks and beaches, hills, and valleys. I found myself totally immersed in the world that was St. John in the early 1800s, the lives of the trappers and the interference of the English. Crummey brought the time period to life in ways I could never get from a history book. He also takes a very daring approach to historical fiction in his depictin of ...more
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 tuto ...more
Elizabeth Barter
There are times when reading the 'River Thieves', I feel like I'm an observer of a movie or a play.Mr.Crummey is keeping me, as his reader, at a distance, then he brings a character like Mary or Cassie into the scene.When they come into the frame,suddenly I'm looking into the intimate world of a young woman.I found the men in this novel distant, but it works for the setting.This is the beginning of the 19th century on the North Coast of Newfoundland,the landscape is dark and cold, it wasn't surp ...more
Set in Newfoundland during a time when the colony's white population was beginning to populate the shores and conflicts were developing with the Indigenous population, this is a beautiful story of early Canada.

The descriptions of life on the barren coast are enchanting and the reslationships between the inhabitants, the weather and the native population feel very real. This book is a beautiful read and provides real insight into the early settment of this part of the country.
Beverly Clark
I was really drawn into this story which involves the impact on the indigenous people of Newfoundland in it's early days of settlement by Europeans (1730's.) The daily life of the settlers and the Beothuk peoples seemed to be authentic and well researched. The author managed to develop the characters so well that I felt like they were real people. Fictional, but based on actual historical people and events.
Moka Rascal
Not just one of my favourite Canadian author's, Michael Crummey is one of my all time favourites. Well-researched, incredibly talented writer - I cherish everyone of his novels. I am not alone it seems. Read the other reviews - they do him credit. Mine would simply be a regurgitation. 5 stars for everyone of them. 'Nough said.
I loved how Crummey told this story, moving around in time to weave a plot with surprises. In the process, several characters became more nuanced, and my assumptions disproved. He also told the story with continual reminders to the senses of this Newfoundland world: the cold, the ice, the mud, the flickering candles at night, the annoyance of flies in the summer, the smell of the chamber pot. I feel very lucky to have read this book. Shortly after finishing his newer book Galore, I realized I ha ...more
This is the type of Canadian book I like to read. I find that we are often represented in fiction as we like to see ourselves - on the polite and cheery side, even in depressing circumstances. This book hangs a lantern on a dark spot in Canadian history.

I am directly related to settlers who found native rifle pits on their land claim. My ancestral home is not far from Frog Lake. These things are not terribly far in the past in Canada - less than a hundred years in some places. European- and Asia
Fred Ann
Harsh climate and social times when the Beothuk Red Indians were hoping for survial in the interior of Newfoundland.No gentleness or sensitivity evidenced or found within in the reading of this historic novel.
Set in 1800s in Newfoundland --a time and place I knew nothing about. Great characters and interesting plot... the vanishing Beothuk Indians of that area and the settlers that were there living in the colony.
What a beautifully written book, on a very interesting subject.

I thought that Crummey handled the topic well and his writing kept me engaged the whole way through.

I may have to investigate more of his work.
Ismaa Khan
My expectations were very different when I started the book, than what I got. I was expecting more about the Beothuck Indians than this book provides. Despite that I enjoyed the plot, the characters and the eloquently written description of life in Newfoundland in the early 19th century.

Michael Crummey is a native of Newfoundland and a good story teller. This book is part fiction and part history, although I found it a bit slow moving, I did gain an insight into the tough lives of the settlers
Angie Scar
I have a tendency to absorb books quickly. I frequently will start and finish a book in a day. Not so with Crummey. I sip his writing like a robust and soothing red. Phenomenal.
I kept at this one even though I never really got into it - mainly because I wanted to figure out why it didn't do anything for me. In the end, I think there was no life in the story or the writing. It reminded me of a novel about a group stranded off of Baffin Island (I cannot remember the title.. but I can picture the cover) so maybe there is a certain approach to this kind of story. For the life of me, I can't picture the author getting excited to work on this or enjoying it at all and that's ...more
The story is interesting, based on some historical events but it was difficult to follow. The timeline jumps around such that numerous times I thought I must have flipped 2 pages since I couldn't figure out what was going on.
Recreational Reader
This book has a really powerful ending. As I read the book there were parts where I felt the story lagged but then a passage would be written so well it would keep my interest and I would read on. The entire last quarter of the book is written so well and brings together why all of the background for each of the characters was important that you will remember it as one of your better reads. Living in the United States I often think about the native American Indian culture and while this story is ...more
Quite interesting tale about the relations between the European settlers and
the Beothuk Indians in Newfoundland at the turn of the 19th century. I
liked Crummey's writing, but the structure of the story left me puzzled.
Instead of telling the story straight out, the author released the truth in
small snippets of information told as remembrances of the individual
characters. To me, this chopped everything up so much that it barely held
my interest. Crummey was also unsuccessful at making me care about
I really enjoyed reading this--found the subject matter SO interesting, and his account really makes you feel like you know the time & place better. I read Galore a while ago, and it seems to me he's really polished his style since this first novel, but I still liked it. Although I was a bit confused by the psychological development of some of the characters. I liked the way he went back and forth in time, shuffled the pages of history, and sometimes covered the same time only from a differe ...more
Jack Beaton
A compelling story but sometimes I found the story line confusing. I couldn't always tell where events I was reading about were chronologically.
Linda Robinson
Got this book from the library because I couldn't get "Galore" recommended by Lauren B. on this site. Engrossing story, layered like a frozen fog over the chilling true story of the time and the Beothuk. Brute weather and passionate peoples, and plot twists like ice shelves colliding. Crummey orchestrates language into prose well. I'm going to read his poetry soon. Reader warning: wear extra layers of clothing reading this book.
Marion Thompson
Interesting historical perspective - horrifying treatment of indigenous people.
I loved this book. I think some parts were a bit slow, but in a way it added to the story. It is in a time where things were slow, letters and people that had to travel by sea. No airplanes or emails. Thus, a gradual plot is somehow fitting.
Though the author is telling a story he did use actual diaries to compile it. Not only is it a great story, it is factual history. The nerd in me just loves that!
Beautifully realized. In the early 1800's Newfoundland is a place that only the hardiest of souls can endure. It is magnificent and cruel country. This is the story of settlers along the northern coast and the remaining Beothuk "Red" Indians and the interaction between the two peoples. There are strongly written and fascinating characters and the book is rivetting. Loved it.
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Born in Buchans, Newfoundland, Crummey grew up there and in Wabush, Labrador, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He went to university with no idea what to do with his life and, to make matters worse, started writing poems in his first year. Just before graduating with a BA in English he won the Gregory Power Poetry Award. First prize was three hundred dollars (big bucks back in 198 ...more
More about Michael Crummey...
Galore Sweetland The Wreckage Hard Light Flesh & Blood: Stories

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