Unlike Anatasia English’s Only a Fisherman’s Daughter, this is a novel by an early Newfoundland woman novelist that almost everyone in Newfoundland has heard of, and deservedly so, because it’s a fine book. I’m not sure how many people have actually read it — I picked it up when I was in high school, couldn’t get into it, and never attempted to read Duley again until I was looking for books written in 1920s and 1930s Newfoundland, at which point it was an obvious choice.
I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to. It’s the story of a girl from an outport fishing family who, due to an encouter with the fairies, ends up being adopted by a wealthy St. John’s family and educated well above her station in life. Mary Immaculate is, at first, a difficult character to relate to, but I found that she grew on me, as did Duley’s writing style. I love the perceptiveness, the humour, and the complexity of the characters. It’s by no means easy to figure out exactly where this novel is going to end up, and the “happy ending” may not seem particularly happy to every reader (I wasn’t happy with it!), but I found the journey through the book, and through Mary’s life, was always engaging and worth the read.