Chips and Gravey: A Ghostly Love Story


187 pages
ISBN 0-88882-132-8
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Gildas Roberts

Gildas Roberts is a university professor of English at the Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


This novel tells the story of a Newfoundland outport lad’s love for
the ghost of a country singer—a love that transforms him from a
rowdyman lout into a caring, sober, and self-sacrificing grownup. Most
of the action takes place in rural Newfoundland, but there are brief,
vivid sidetrips to Kentucky (where the girl who became the lovely
country singer, who ultimately became the ghost, was raised) and to
Nashville (where she was rising to fame until she was killed in a plane
she had “borrowed”). This book is a curious amalgam of Alice’s
Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (inanimate
objects talk and listen), Thorne Smith’s Topper (the plane crash and
the wandering ghost who has some lingering contact with the real world),
and Gordon Pinsent’s The Rowdyman (the drunken, roistering life of
outport lads). It shouldn’t work, but it does—magnificently. It
moved me to laugh out loud, and then, the very next page, to weep
furtive, sentimental tears.

The prose is in places unabashedly poetic. Poetic prose (so very often
pastiche Dylan Thomas and pastiche William Faulkner, the type of thing
produced by graduates of North American universities that purport to
teach “creative writing”) generally sends me bolting, groaning
loudly, to the nearest emergency exit. But this poetic prose
works—again magnificently.

In short, Chips and Gravey is an excellent novel, and marks a new level
of achievement for Bill Gough, another step along the way to becoming a
writer of major significance.


Gough, William., “Chips and Gravey: A Ghostly Love Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,