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River Thieves: A Novel

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3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
In a masterly debut, the award-winning poet and short-fiction writer Michael Crummey crafts a haunting novel set on the rugged coast of Newfoundland at the turn of the nineteenth century. Told in elegant, sensual prose, RIVER THIEVES Thieves is a richly imagined, historically provocative story about love, loss, and the heartbreaking compromises -- both personal and politic ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 19th 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published September 11th 2001)
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Susan Oleksiw
Jan 17, 2014 Susan Oleksiw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk)
Review coming soon. :)
Krista
In the eyes of the British Crown at the time, the island of Newfoundland wasn't considered a proper colony, but a sort of floating fishing station and training ground for naval recruits, a country that existed only during the summer months. Most of the planters and fishermen returned to England for the winter, as did the governor himself.

River Thieves is a fictional imagining of a real historic time that author Michael Crummey populated with real people (those on the side whose stories have su
...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
...more
Shane
Dec 22, 2008 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Irene
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
Gerry Burnie
Gerry B's Book Reviews - http://gerrycan.wordpress.com

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”
...more
Ollie
Jun 27, 2010 Ollie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Emily
May 01, 2012 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Evi
Apr 23, 2015 Evi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Crummey is becoming one of my favorite authors. You cannot skip willy nilly through the pages of his books. Every paragraph will grab you and make you want to keep turning pages.

The story surrounds a group of European settlers in the early 19th century (the Peytons). The reader following their family, their housekeeper, Cassie, (who carries her own personal tragedy) and the men who manage fishing and trapping concerns on the shore of Newfoundland.

It's a brutal, physically punishing life
...more
Angie Scar
Nov 25, 2014 Angie Scar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jay Warner
Jan 17, 2010 Jay Warner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sandie
Oct 01, 2013 Sandie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2014 Elizabeth Barter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian
Mar 12, 2016 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure this is Crummey's finest writing from the standpoint of his prose. I think he handles transitions and juxtaposition with greater brilliance in later novels, but in River Thieves he tackles tragedy in a story where most would achieve "tragic" at best. No one would disagree that the fate of the Beothuk during the North American colonial expansion is an international scandal, an appalling abuse of power and an uncommon dearth of sensitivity and common sense. That's tragic. But by writi ...more
Jennifer
Jul 24, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jann Lavalley
Apr 03, 2016 Jann Lavalley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was so long ago that I read this book that all I can remember is that I truly enjoyed the narrative. It saddened me that here again was an account of British and European ethnocentrism. Even though this is fictionalized it relates how the Beothuk native culture was wiped out after Newfoundland's discovery by Europeans. If you are interested in the history, here is the Wikipedia entry for Beothuk: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beothuk
Beverly Clark
Jun 28, 2014 Beverly Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Peggy
Jun 23, 2015 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally absorbing. Rich with history of nineteenth century North America. Red Indians (authenticated with ochre,) stark landscape, and enigmatic characters. There's a darkness to the story, as the narrative weaves and unwinds. Histories haunt the few men and women who struggle to survive the rugged coast of Newfoundland. I felt cold the entire time I was in the pages.
Moka Rascal
Apr 17, 2014 Moka Rascal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Larry
Mar 07, 2016 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is Newfoundland in the early 1880's. Settlers and explorers form an expedition to seek out the Beothuk (red Indians) to establish peaceful relations. Harsh conditions and violent tendencies lead to tragic ends. A wonderful adventure tale.
Deodand
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
...more
Fred Stuart
Great Story

I have now read two of Crummey's three novels and like his writing more and more with each chapter. His imagination and his knowledge of Newfoundland combine to make well-spun yarns.
Fred Ann
Nov 09, 2014 Fred Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: river-thieves
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.
Lynne Wright
If you've ever idly thought that maybe winter camping might be kinda fun, read this novel set in the wilds of Newfoundland at the turn of the 19th century,and then you will go NOPE NOPE aaand... NOPE!
Laurie Pasher
May 23, 2015 Laurie Pasher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting view into the lives of my husband's early Newfoundland ancestors. I think I felt frozen almost all the way through the book! Couldn't imagine myself in that setting! A very good read.
Laura
Jul 04, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Philippe Isler
Apr 27, 2016 Philippe Isler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although, it's his first novel, it's the third of his books that I have read. It is just as rich a tapestry of characters and history, and the natural environment in which the two exist and unfold as the other two. In some ways it is almost Dickensian in its examination of characters' motivations and actions as being embedded in time and place, history and social relations, as well as personal choice. At the same time, there are ways in which it reminds me of reading Romantic poets. That he is a ...more
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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
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