Sylvanus Now
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Sylvanus Now

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  465 ratings  ·  41 reviews
On Canada's Atlantic coast at the edge of the great Newfoundland fishing banks of the 1950s, Sylvanus Now is a handsome and willful fisherman. His youthful desires are simple: he wants a suit to lure a girl—the fine-boned beauty Adelaide—and he knows exactly how much fish he has to catch to pay for it. Adelaide, however, has other dreams. She longs to escape the sea, the f...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 1st 2004)
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"Sylvanus Now" takes place in the 1950s on Canada's Atlantic coast. Sylvanus Now is a Newfoundland fisherman and all he wants is a new suit, so he can catch himself a wife.

Adelaide is smart and beautiful with ice blue eyes. She excels in school, but her mother takes her out of school to work the fish flakes which Adelaide absolutely abhors. Due to lack of money to care for all the children Adelaide's mother has born Adelaide is forced to help provide for and care for them.

Sylvanus becomes infat...more
Dorothyanne Brown
I have just read a novel of such unspeakable beauty that I am overwhelmed. Donna Morrissey's Sylvanus Now is breathtaking, right from the first vision of Sylvanus jigging fish: right forearm up, left forearm down, left forearm up, right forearm down; to the vision of Adelaide's eye, sparkling blue. It's a novel about the changing of the fishery in Newfoundland, when large trawlers came in to rape the seas and the governments abandoned both the sea and the careful tenders of her in favour of chea...more
I admire novelists who are able to capture the living soul of a culture. One of the best I’ve found in that regard is Canadian, east coast novelist Donna Morrissey. Her novels are vivid portraits of maritime Canada which probe the deep set values of the people who inhabit it. She also recreates the east coast dialect convincingly.

“Sylvanus Now” portrays a culture whose ingrained way of life is being pushed aside by the advance of technology. We watch as Sylvanus Now proudly and stubbornly resist...more
This is wonderful historical fiction! In 1950's Newfoundland, a way of life for generations of fishermen is being replaced by government (Canadian) re-organization and relocation of the sparse and hardy populace. A young couple who are each a bit different from the rest of the villagers, find love, loss and ultimately peace. This is the third novel by Donna Morrissey. Downhill Chance and Kit's Law. All are set in Newfoundland and are beautifully written. Her novels are full of a strong sense of...more
3.5 stars

It is the 1950s in Newfoundland. Adelaide has grown up taking care of all her younger siblings, but hates hearing them scream and longs for time to herself. Sylvanus becomes a fisherman, but as technology and times change, he clings to the old ways. It is the beginning of the decline of the fisheries.

It started off quite slow and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. About a third of the way in, I suddenly found it much more interesting. I can't say the pace picked up or anything, b...more
Straight out of Newfoundland, you'll feel yourself living in that place and doubtlessly searching your own heart. Another excellent read!
Marjana Simic
After reading ‘Downhill Chance’ by one of Atlantic Canada’s best authors, Donna Morrissey, I was left pondering the novel for quite some time. A couple of years later, I ran into Sylvanus Now, her third book, by pure accident. Knowing how thoroughly she crafts her characters, I was convinced this book would live up to my expectations. Once again, my instinct proved me right.

Set in the 1950′s fishing community of Atlantic Canada, the story is an unlikely one. It follows the lives of a young coupl...more
Sometimes a book may not have an action packed plot-line, but the words on the page transport the reader into the day-to-day world of the story so eloquently, that one feels as if they have been there. I know what the wind from the point of a tiny town on Newfoundland tastes like. I've heard the crash of the waves, and the sting of the salt as the fish are set to dry. I've lived with the people of that town, through their sorrows, and seen their hopes.

I was fascinated to learn about the coastal...more
Ronald Kelland
I grew up in Alberta, but I come from St. John's, so I therefore have no personal connection to outport Newfoundland life. Despite this, Morrissey's novels of rural Newfoundland always bring me to a comfortable, nostalgic place. This may seem odd, because Morrissey's characters usually have to deal with terrible heartaches, problems and pain. This book is no exception in that regard. Set against the backdrop of resettlement and a modernizing fishery, a young couple find each other because they d...more
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I'm going to start my reviews halfway through a book because I don't remember alot of what impressed me as important by the end.
Sylvanus is the strong and silent type. He loves to go fishing, his life's work, and likes his time alone. Then he spots a beautiful young thing and is totally smitten by her. She is trapped in a house taking care of the constant brood of children that her mother continues to bear and is devastated when she has to give up school, which she loves and excels in, to work...more
Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey

When was the last time you read a book that was so beautifully written that you took the time to reread passages? “She’d seen the soft green of the first seedling push its head above ground and quiver upon the slightest breath.” “Sylvanus Now” is not only the title but the name of the main character, a stubborn man , who wants to live a simple life of fishing in a tiny village on the coast of Newfoundland. He figures out exactly how much fish he must catch and prep...more
Didn't like this story, it wasn't nearly as good as all the hype I'd heard about it.

"The time is the 1950's, and the place is Canada's Atlantic coast at the edge of the great Newfoundland fishing banks. Sylvanus Now is a young fisherman of great charm and strength. His youthful desires are simple: he wants a suit to lure a girl - the fine boned beauty Adelaide - and he knows exactly how much fish he has to catch to pay for it. Adelaide, however, has other dreams. She longs to escape the sea, the...more
I heard stories about the fisheries and resettlement program in Newfoundland all my life. It was a very tough time for Newfoundlanders and hearing it happen first hand really struck a cord. As sad as it was at times, there was lots of joy to be found in the simple things. Sometimes it'd be nice to go back to simple, hard perhaps, but simple.
Athena Nicole
I picked this book up several years ago and started reading it. I had to stop because I was afraid of where the book was going, having then recently had my own brush with depression. When I picked it up again this summer, I was ready for this story of bitter disappointment and resiliency of spirit. The story is harshly beautiful. I would recommend the book to those who understand the pain of loss, but who are a little removed from it at the point of reading. Caution: This book has the potential...more
A tale of outport newfoundland and life drying fish. While the sense of time and place is gripping, I preferred Downhill Chance.
Hooked me like a jigger - I love Donna Morrissey.
The love story of Sylvanus & Adelaide in a small outport in Newfoundland trying to make a happy life in the 50's and 60's during the steep and severe decline of the Newfoundland fishing industry. It was saddening and maddening to read about the government's reaction to foreign fishing trawlers overfishing Newfoundland's fertile shores. A melancholy read, but thoroughly enjoyable - excellent writing and imaginative description made me feel lik...more
I had to read this, having read the sequel. I wish I had read it before What They Wanted, since it would have helped me to understand the family dynamic. This book also takes place entirely in Nfld., so there is so much more in it about the land, the fishing industry, the folklore, the language. Morissey is incredibly talented in relating the whole Nfld. ethic. What stays with you after everything else, is the beauty. You may not have actually seen and experienced the Island, but you feel as tho...more
picked up audio CD at Pearson warehouse sale, read by author so she has the wonderful accent & dialect, super writer, moving and deep story; like any great tale of the East Coast, at least of Newfoundland, it's both tragic and funny. can't wait to read more of her books.
Donna Morrissey writes about life in Newfoundland with the amazing ability to make you feel all the hardships these people face. This book follows the life of Sylvanus Now and his wife Adelaide in the small fishing port of Cooney Arm in the 1950's just as the fishing stocks were starting to be overfished. With hindsight, how easy it is to see how Newfoundland reached the present day situation of banning the cod fishing.
This is a book that we chose for our book club. I love Newfoundland so I could not wait to start reading this book. Unfortunately I could not finish the book. I have a big problem with the Newfoundland dialect. I read for pleasure and I had to stop at each sentence to try to understand the meaning. I really tried but it did not work for me. So if you don't know the Newfoundland dialect I would not recommend this book.
One of the most beautifully told novels I've read. Sylvanus Now is the story of a young fisherman and his wife in a 1950s Newfoundland village at a time when industrialization and overfishing were leading to the death of old ways of life. I didn't think I'd be interested in the topic when I picked this one up, but the characters were so complex and compelling, I couldn't put it down. A must-read.
There are many things to like about this book about an old-school Canadian fisherman. The character development is terrific and unusual. The construction of the environment is vivid and leaves a lasting impression.

Probably the most interesting part for me is that the main characters are introverts. It is not often introverts are depicted so vividly, with such sensitivity, and empathy.
Nathaniel Smith
This was a beautiful book, but the characters were a little stiff and predictable, and some of the symbolism was heavy-handed. It is a compelling rendition of a dying Newfoundland fishing town, with an interesting love story at its center, but ultimately it did not seem to really confront the issues it presented both personally between characters and broadly about the Atlantic cod trade.
I will admit that this book caught my eye mainly because of the name (any other World of Warcraft, Horde players will understand the reference to Sylvanas.) I didn't think the book would be my style, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's the story of a fisherman and his wife, their way of life in 1950s Newfoundland, and the consequences of overfishing.
Very evocative, with an impressively vivid sense of place. I felt an almost painful empathy with Adelaide's frustration at being an intelligent child in a time and place where intelligence was valued not at all. This book is a valuable example of how historical events need stories of specific people to anchor them in the mind.
Despite this book having, let's face it, a quite dark tone, I really enjoyed it. I read it for a Canadian Lit class at university and I'm really glad I did. Morrissey knows how to create complex and vivid characters as well as settings. I've heard there's a sequel but I have not yet read it.

I really liked this book about a Newfoundland fisherman in the 1950s and his love affair with his wife, a slightly chilly but very insightful young woman. The author paints a wonderful picture of the time and place and the characters are very real and sympathetic.

A satisfying portrait of the human will in the face of forces both internal and external, and both micro and macro, set in an authentic Newfoundland. Globe and Mail called Morrissey a Newfoundland Thomas Hardy -- agreed! (And yes, that's a ringing endorsement.)
This was good but definitely not as good as her other books, Kit's Law and Downhill Chance. I wasn't happy with the ending. I wish the author had done a better job of explaining fishing terms and equipment. A nice window into Newfoundland in the mid-19th century.
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Donna Morrissey is the award-winning author of Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, What They Wanted, and Sylvanus Now, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She recently wrote a children’s book, Cross Katie Kross, illustrated by her daughter, Bridget. Morrissey grew up in The Beaches, a small fishing outport in Newfoundland & Labrador and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
More about Donna Morrissey...
Kit's Law Downhill Chance The Deception of Livvy Higgs What They Wanted Cross Katie Kross

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