Theatre of Fish: Travels through Newfoundland and Labrador by John Gimlette - review by Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje

Between The Rock and a Hard Place

Theatre of Fish: Travels through Newfoundland and Labrador

By

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The rugged triangular island of Newfoundland lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St Lawrence and consists mainly of a low, forested plateau rolling gently to the north-east; it has a miserably infertile interior, and most of its population (a little over 600,000) live along the inhospitably irregular coast, especially in the south-east. It was discovered by John Cabot in 1497 and eventually became an English fishing station; along with the sparsely populated Coast of Labrador (the region is now known as the province of Newfoundland and Labrador), it was made a dominion during the First World War, and in 1949 the area formed Canada’s most recently acquired province (one of ten).

To all those that live there, John Gimlette tells us, Newfoundland is known, quite simply, as ‘The Rock’. The province owes its existence entirely to fish – specifically, cod. ‘Newfoundland made its first appearance on European maps in 1436, as the lyrical “Land of Stockfish”,’ writes Gimlette. ‘Fish has been

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