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Sylvanus Now

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  706 Ratings  ·  73 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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Community Reviews

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Lars Jerlach
May 18, 2017 Lars Jerlach rated it really liked it
The novel is set in the remote and often ferocious world of the outports of Newfoundland, in a place where the craggy exposed hills are merely used to look for lost men at sea, and where burials are an all too frequent occurrence.
Although the story is centered around the emotional intricacies between two people, Sylvanus and his wife Adelaide,  the novel is concerned mostly with a transitional world in which the traditional fishing methods are exchanged for trawlers and giant factory ships and
Dorothyanne Brown
Nov 06, 2012 Dorothyanne Brown rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 08, 2015 Krystle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
6/5 stars!

Sylvanus Now is one of the best Newfoundland books I've read, and I've read quite a few! Everything about this book made me completely fall in love with it. This is the first of Donna Morrissey's books that I've read, but I will certainly be checking out her other novels after reading and enjoying this one.

The story of Sylvanus Now is so beautiful and rich. Donna's writing is flawless and she perfectly captures the spirit of outport NL; at times, I felt as if she had been writing abou
Jun 28, 2008 Pauline rated it really liked it
"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
Aug 31, 2007 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2009 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Straight out of Newfoundland, you'll feel yourself living in that place and doubtlessly searching your own heart. Another excellent read!
Susan Khaladkar
Mar 17, 2017 Susan Khaladkar rated it really liked it
Loved this book. Great story, well written and riveting. Can't wait to read What They Wanted but I have to buy it first.
Mar 14, 2017 Joanne rated it liked it
This first book about the Now family is beautifully written. The author is skilled at evoking every day Newfoundland, especially the rural outport villages. We meet Sylvanus and Adelaide Now in their younger years, as they struggle to start a family and maintain a way of life in a fishing outport that is quickly disappearing.
The problem I have with the book is that I just can't find Addie a very sympathetic character. She's a dreamer who wants out of the life she's always had: she hates the oce
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Nov 02, 2016 Kris - My Novelesque Life rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of canadian fiction

"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 fish, and the stultifying community, but her need for refuge from her own troubled family leads her to Sylvanu
Mar 24, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Aug 06, 2013 Tina rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2017 Annette rated it liked it
I liked this story better as it went along. Life for fishermen and the community is difficult expertly explained here. I could feel the cold sea and weather, chilling to the bone. Not a life for me but beautiful in itself I imagine for those where it is home.
Time seems important, the longness of it, the passing, the sorrow with brief contentments . . it seems treacherous at times when waiting for a spouse to come home from the waters, or when one knows he is not returning.
A plain 3.5 stars, so
Daniel Kukwa
Jun 22, 2017 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
Evocative and heartbreaking...which is now all I expect from Atlantic Canadian writers. What keeps the reader going to the end of the novel is a small, shining thread of hope running through the story. It refuses to diminish, even during the darkest events. Hold on to it tightly, and you might be surprised at the outcome.
Feb 16, 2017 Lynn rated it really liked it
Not bad. Some parts hard to get through. Donna knows how to write
Mar 01, 2017 Megan rated it really liked it
This was a thoughtful and incredible book. While not my usual taste because of its character based plot line, it drew me in. The Now family lives in rural Newfoundland in the 50s, when the fishery is at its breaking point and rural families are being relocated. Morrisey proves she is a uniquely Canadian voice telling a Newfoundland story like few can tell it. I learned more about the collapse of the cod fishery in this quiet tale than in 40 years of news stories. This is not the style of book I' ...more
Marjana Simic
Jan 25, 2011 Marjana Simic rated it liked it
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
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
Nov 18, 2010 Mrsgaskell rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 10, 2009 Sheri rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-authors
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
Oct 18, 2016 KAUSHIK rated it it was ok
Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey is a lyrical novel about a Newfoundland fisherman Sylvanus and his wife Adelaide. Through the hardships of the severe weather, the damages done by the commercial fishing trawlers , the author explores the struggles of their lives. Marked by financial hardships brought on by a lack of cod fish, and personal troubles where Adelaide loses several children through miscarriage, the novel is a gritty description of life in Atlantic Canada.
The bleakness of the vast land
Ronald Kelland
Aug 07, 2013 Ronald Kelland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2017 Joyce rated it liked it
A good, steady read. I heard Donna Morrissey on CBC radio and the excerpt from her latest book piqued my interest and led to find the first in this trilogy. Did not disappoint.
Mar 22, 2009 Louise rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 27, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it
Such a touching story of the life of a fisherman named, Sylvanus Now, his wife, Adelaide, and their families. There is so much heartbreak and emotion in this book full of struggles. Once you get used to the dialect, you feel a part of these characters and feel their hurt, suffering and pain. What I enjoyed the most was obtaining a better understanding of the fishing industry in Canada's Atlantic Coast. As I live in Western Canada, I was unaware of how difficult it is to be a career fisherman; an ...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
Mar 05, 2011 C rated it really liked it
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
Athena Nicole
Aug 21, 2013 Athena Nicole rated it really liked it
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
The very best part of this book is the authors special talent for capturing the lyrical value and the uniqueness of the Newfoundland tongue without butchering the written word as some less talented authors tend to attempt when they want to mimic a different dialect (for lack of a better term).

The main characters were intriguing and their overall storyline resonated with me, however the background characters were quite one dimensional and there were a few jumps of time within chapters which just
Nov 16, 2012 Stacy rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2007 Jenny rated it it was amazing
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.
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Donna Morrissey has written six nationally bestselling novels. She has received awards in Canada, the U.S., and England. Her novel Sylvanus Now was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and she was nominated for a Gemini for best writing for the film Clothesline Patch. Her fiction has been translated into several different languages. Born and raised in Newfoundland, she now lives in Hal
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