I read Shipping News earlier this year while we were traveling in Newfoundland. It didn't fill me with a sense of Newfoundland the way that Latitudes of Melt did. Shipping News could have taken place anywhere in a small, cold, coastal community whereas Latitudes evoked a strong sense of Newfoundland.
"There amid the cushioning green, millions of bakeapples shown like orange stars, spreading inland as far as the eye could see, past the blue pond water to the infinite rise beyond. They were a galaxy whose constellations changed as handfulls of berries tumbled into pails. No matter how far the women walked inland, they were never out of sight of the sea. . . the berries grew best in boggy ground, the same bogs where purple iris grew."Newfoundland is in the middle of the latitudes of melt, between 46 and 51 degrees north, a region where icebergs calved in Greenland drift down the Labrador Current to dwindle in the coves before disappearing altogether below the 43rd parallel. For this reason alone the title was appropriate for the story. Clark carries the theme of icebergs and melting beyond the setting and into the characters themselves and their relationships. There are times when the current of circumstance melts the frost in a person's and other times when the cold hardens into an iceberg. And like an iceberg only a small portion of the thing is visible.
Latitudes of Melt starts out when the main character, Aurora, is found bundled into a basket and floating on a flat piece of ice. The book is about her life and those she is closely associated with. It covers nearly the whole of the 20th century.
I really liked this book - the story, the writing, the characters were all captivating. It was a treat to read about some things I had learned about earlier in the year, such as growlers, bakeapples, bogs, the Christmas tradition of mummering and confederation. This is a book I look forward to reading again.