Book Review: Out to the Battery

Initial Thoughts:

Right away you’ll notice no details from Amazon, this is because this is a local book that you won’t find on there. Unfortunately unless you live in Newfoundland you probably won’t be able to get this book at all but I digress. I had to read this book as I love the unique part of St. John’s called “The Battery”. Also the fact that my father-in-law is in the book (and gave me a copy) further enticed my to do so. If you see the beautiful cover, a scenic picture of the Battery on a sunny day, you’ll want to buy it to Smile.

Main Points:

This book collects stories, poems, songs, drawings and pictures from residents both current and former of the Battery. All of these recollections are organized into chapters such as “Where We’re From”, “An Outport in the City” and “It Was a Good Life”. The pictures (many going back as far as the ‘20s) are wonderful and help tremendously to imagine things the way things were in the Battery and see how much they’ve changed.

On a personal note I love to visit the Battery myself, it is a beautiful spot to walk around in the summer/fall and I make every effort to visit the “Pearcey Fishing Stage” which I am privileged to have access to through my wife.

What I liked:

As Larry David so recently said on Curb your Enthusiasm “what’s not to like?” Open-mouthed smile

The stories collected here will warm you heart as you here about safe, fun and yet hard-working times of fisher people and their families out at the Battery. It is a tight knit community and because of people like Carl (and his brother Charlie) you can still go out there and feel welcome and get a glimpse of true Newfoundland hospitality. On a personal note only about 9 months ago I was there at a party (for someone’s birthday I believe) and aside from music, singing, food and drinks I also saw complete strangers who walked by get invited in for a drink and some stew. That is not the kind of thing you see very often, at least not around the St. John’s area.

This book shows the hardships as well though, people lost their homes and wharfs due to weather over the years. The fishery all but collapsed and this completely changed places like the Battery. Children died and people who worked in bars and the bottoms of ships are now suffering with health problems.

Some people lament the destruction of the fishery while others talk about the community of the Battery has forever changed and they are fighting to hold onto historic wharves and properties before the city can demolish them.

It gives you a glimpse into the way Newfoundland life was (and still is to a lesser degree) and it certainly makes you want to visit the Battery to see and experience it for yourself.

Dislikes:

Fairly minor, some of the pictures have unidentified people in them. This would have been fine for a work of fiction but as a historical book it shows a lack of research.

I also would have liked some aerial photos if possible and a more precise comparison through pictures of what the Battery looks like now as compared to 50 or even 100 years ago.

This book assumes you live in (or have a fair bit of knowledge of) Newfoundland, without it I don’t think you can enjoy this book nearly as much.

Final Thoughts:

This is an excellent book if you want to get a feel for how the Battery once was, is now and learn how the people are struggling to not only hold onto their historic structures and their community but also its unique nature. A strong 8/10 from me. Thumbs up I finished it in about 5 hours and found it very hard to put down.

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