This is a wonderful novel set in Newfoundland in the fictional community of Cape Random a fishing station, during the 1820-1830’s. Cape Random is closely based on the now abandoned community of Cape Island in Bonavista Bay, the birthplace of the author’s mother. Although the characters are fictional it is an accurate, well researched depiction of early settlers and their life in Newfoundland.
I loved it! There is also a movie made of it and if you can get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. Netflix carries it.
Mary Bundle is a 17 year old, single, Irish girl arriving alone via England to Newfoundland with a newborn baby in tow. Mary expected to arrive in a large city like St. Johns but was let off at Cape Random, a tiny fishing community with only 19 other people living there. She is an incredibly strong-willed, stubborn, outspoken person. She rubs everyone the wrong way. In a community where everyone has to work together and think of the community as a whole Mary’s self-centeredness creates a problem, not to mention the sexual tensions her arrival create! I liked Mary Bundle. Just think how strong she had to be to survive the difficult childhood she had in Ireland, having an out of wedlock child in the 1800’s and getting on a ship to sail to the new world all on her own! All these things helped make her the tough as nails woman she became.
On the other hand you have Lavinia Andrews, a 17 year old girl who was a domestic servant in Weymouth England from a loving family. They had to flee England and ended up in Cape Random shortly before Mary. Lavinia reads and writes and is somewhat genteel. She resents the isolation and lonliness of Newfoundland even though she has her whole family with her. She has 2 married brothers and their families and her mom there too. Of course Lavinia and Mary don’t like each other very much!
Thomas Hutchings runs the fishing station for a fishing merchant and he is stern and reserved. It’s his job to efficiently run the fishing station and keep the residents alive thru the extremely harsh winters. He’s very aloof and Lavinia is certain he has a deep dark secret. And of course both Lavinia and Mary want him.
There is also the Vincent family with 3 sons and a daughter.
The Norris family arrives after Mary. Frank and Ida and their small daughter Rose. They have more financial means than the other families but Ida suffers from mental illness and the isolation and ruggedness of the area don’t bode well for her.
Such a sparse, dangerous and difficult life you just can’t imagine! A great family and individual saga. There is a sequel to this book, Waiting for Time.
The novel was retitled Cape Random for publication in the United States.
Here is a link for a chapter by chapter synopsis of Random Passages.
This Post is linked to The Book Mine Set’s Canadian Book Challenge