Audiobooks, ratings, reviews (beta)

The Shipping News


Author: Annie Proulx –

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio –

Genre: Fiction, Culture, History –

Overall rating: 5/5 –

Writing: 5/5 –

Duration: 12:54 (long) –

Narrator: Paul Hecht –

Narrator/performance: 5/5 –

Impressions: 5/5 –

Performance errors: 1/5 –

Complexity/reading level: 4/5 –

Audience: General


“By midnight the wind was straight out of the west and he heard the moan leap to bellowing, a terrible wind out of the catalog of winds. A wind related to the Blue Norther, the frigid Blaast and the Landlash. A cousin to the Bull’s-eye squall that started in a small cloud with a ruddy center, mother-in-law to the Vindsgnyr of the Norse sagas, the three-day Nor’easters of maritime New England. An uncle with to the Alaskan Williwaw and Ireland’s wild Doinionn. Stepsister to the Koshava that assaults the Yugoslavian plains with Russian snow, the Steppenwind, and the violent Buran from the great open steppes of central Asia, the Crivets, the frigid Viugas and Purgas of Siberia, and from the north of Russia the ferocious Myatel. A blood brother of the prairie Blizzard, the Canadian arctic screamer known simply as Northwind, and the Pittarak smoking down off Greenland’s ice fields. This nameless wind scraping the Rock with an edge like steel”.

I read this excellent book a while back, yet still remember it in quite a lot of detail. It was published in 1993 and won the Pulitzer Prize, among other awards. It contains lovely cultural and historical references, inviting the reader to research further. The story is… something else. It is not exactly coherent, although not in an unmeaningful way. It starts with dramatic abuse and develops into an adventure where external forces appear to serve as teachers, albeit very strict ones. The writing is excellent, with language suggesting something between a secret garden and a fairy tale. It is a book mainly about people, nature and industry. It describes the process of calmly finding hope, beauty and poetry in difficult circumstances which may perhaps be something that sets this book apart. There is a stoic vibe to it.

The narrator has a low, very pleasant voice. The recording sounds like it was made for the radio. The style is laid back and relaxed but the words are also very clear. It is easy to listen to. The sentences are short and the narrator often pauses, allowing the meanings to sink in. It is not a fast-paced, action-filled book. Its every part is artfully constructed.

The book contains certain curious irregular, unreal elements. However, it would not qualify as a horror of a fantasy novel. Its proper genre is hard to define. The length is just right. A highly recommendable read for a quiet evening – or as a travel companion.

Annie Proulx, The Shipping News audiobook cover, orange

This audiobook cover may be simple but it does stay in one’s memory for a long time. It uses color to become memorable, a black-and-white photo to hint at the book’s atmosphere and other elements to suggest modernity. It is all adequate and spot on. The lettering is not very clear, although one may argue that this is not necessary in the age of audiobook apps, which provide necessary information anyway. The photo tucked in a corner shows a group of people pulling a house onto a rock while a smaller group of people is watching, but really remembering, their great feat. I liked the cover a lot.

Cover Photo by Frederick Adegoke Snr. on Unsplash