Temperance Street By Herb F. Hopkins
On July 2, 1992 two significant moments in Newfoundland culture were being exposed. At the same time, the true state of the cod fishery and the Roman Catholic Church were visible.
Temperance Street is Herb Hopkins second novel, it unfolds during these stressful endeavours in Newfoundland history. Hopkins wanted to revisit Luke, a character from his first novel The Book of Luke. He was interested in making Luke 14-years-old because it was an age group he had taught, coincidentally that stuck the novel in 1992.
“The darkest year in Newfoundland history; the cod moratorium and post Roman Catholic church abuse scandal. Frankly, I didn’t want to write about these sensitive issues, but there it was – in my lap. It seemed like I had no choice. As they say: it came to me, I didn’t go to it. I understand the gravity of these issues. It was overwhelming at times,” said Hopkins.
Either way, the writing and plot are what truly keeps the reader interested. There have been many stories set in the throws of Newfoundland history, but Temperance Street gives an accurate depiction of every day life in the midst of political controversy. The beginning of the book is a view into the everyday life of a family waking up in the Battery. The language is extremely intelligent, yet the dialect and conversation create a connection to each character. In fact, it is hard to even refer to them as such, because as a reader they become true identities with such depth and reality, it’s hard to admit to their lack of existence.
A lot of Newfoundland novels want to include the language and drop relevant areas to keep the book close to home. It is usually obviously implanted and forced as if the writer has jabbed a few Memorial Universities here and then a Signal Hill or two in random sentences. It is a rarity to read through landmarks and slang with such ease as Hopkins has provided. Of course, the island is within the lines, the sense of comfort and smell of the ocean is in the air but it is not strained and unnatural. It is perfectly balanced.
Hopkins gives us a view inside the mind of a young adult and exposes us to a struggle between the immaturity and activity of being a child but faced with reality of serious issues. Luke balances his life with adventure, religion, his parents- it’s a pivotal moment in life that can easily be forgotten but Hopkins brings us to the past through Luke’s experience. Temperance Street provides individual understandings through each character and different perspectives of Newfoundland’s history.
“My work is historical fiction, so on one level I’d like for readers rethink or introduce the issues of 1992, also I hope readers will relate to my characters, find a piece of themselves in them, but most of all I hope they enjoy the story. Enjoy may be the wrong word, perhaps resonate would be more appropriate,” said Hopkins.
An honest, deep, realistic and entertaining novel of loss and deception, Temperance Street reminds us of who we are as Newfoundlanders through amazing descriptions and flawless dialogue.
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