One of the staples of Newfoundland and Labrador writing has always been marine disasters and the dangers inherent in making a living from the sea.
The well-researched “People of the Sea” by Clarence Vautier continues this tradition.
Actually, it’s a followup to his 2006 title “Beneath the Waves: Newfoundland Sea Stories.”
What stands out about Vautier is that he works in ocean navigation himself, so he’s first-hand familiar with the realities of working on ships. His writing is distinguished by expert insight. Vautier was born in La Poile, and began his life on the sea as a teen. He’s now an officer with Algoma Central Marine, based in St. John’s.
Even though this book comes off as a tribute to the people involved in fishing and shipping, Vautier avoids sentimentality. In language and tone, this is a pitfall of many similar books.
Clearly, Vautier wants readers to understand in realistic terms the nature of life at sea, and the factors that result in the dangers that can rise up and take it away.
So Vautier can write about, say, the mysterious loss of the Cape Royal, a fishing trawler on its way from Burgeo to Marystown — and the thing that strikes you is Vautier’s largely dispassionate style; it’s as though he’s reporting the facts of this story and others like it.
This is not to say Vautier is not passionate about his subject (obviously he is), but he seems to appreciate that you don’t need a heavy-handed approach to make a point; the book and the subject themselves can do the talking.
Match this with Vautier’s fluid narrative style and willingness to get to the point and “People of the Sea” makes a compelling read. Ask for it at your public library.
Darrell Squires is assistant manager of Newfoundland and Labrador
Public Libraries, West Newfoundland-Labrador division.
You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 634-7333.
His column appears every other week.