“No, for wasn’t this the chance he had always wanted? Wasn’t he at long last an adventurer, a man who had gambled all on one horse, a horse coloured Canada, which now by hook or by crook would carry him to fame and fortune?”
Meet Ginger Coffey, the irrepressible fortune-hunter of Brian Moore’s award-winning novel. The Luck of Ginger Coffey is the robust, funny, sometimes tragic tale of one unforgettable Irish immigrant to Montreal. Buoyed by unfailing optimism, Ginger confronts the ugly realities of life in the New World. Jobs are scarce, people often inhuman. And dreams of glory do not offer any lasting escape from the hard pinch of poverty.
In spite of the battering he receives in his struggle for survival, Ginger Coffey emerges a true hero – the “little” man who can be defeated by anything, except life itself.
The Luck of Ginger Coffey was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1960 and was made into a critically acclaimed motion picture.
From the Paperback edition.close this panel
Fifteen dollars and three cents. He counted it and put it in his trouser-pocket. Then picked his Tyrolean hat off the dresser, wondering if the two Alpine buttons and the little brush dingus in the hatband weren’t a shade jaunty for the place he was going. Still, they might be lucky to him. And it was a lovely morning, clear and crisp and clean. Maybe that was a good augury. Maybe today his ship would come in.
James Francis (Ginger) Coffey then risked it into the kitchen. His wife was at the stove. His daughter Paulie sat listless over Corn Flakes. He said “Good morning,” but his only answer came from Michel, the landlady’s little boy, who was looking out the window.
“What’s up, lad?” Coffey asked, joining Michel. Together, man and boy, they watched a Montreal Roads Department tractor clambering on and off the pavement as it shunted last night’s snowfall into the street.
“Sit down, Ginger, you’re as bad as the child,” his wife said, laying his breakfast on the kitchen table.
He tried her again. “Good morning, Veronica.”
“His mother was just in,” said she, pointing to Michel. “Wanting to know how long we were going to keep the place on. I told her you’d speak to her. So don’t forget to pop upstairs and give our notice the minute you have the tickets.”
“Yes, dear.” Flute! Couldn’t a man get a bite of breakfast into him before she started that nattering? He knew about telling Madame Beaulieu. All right.
A boiled egg, one slice of toast and his tea. It was not enough. Breakfast was his best meal; she knew that. But in the crying poverty mood that was on her these last weeks, he supposed she’d take his head off altogether if he asked her for a second egg. Still, he tried.
“Would you make us another egg?” he said.
“Make it yourself,” she said.
He turned to Paulie. “Pet, would you shove an egg on for me?”
“Daddy, I’m late.”
Ah, well. If it was to be a choice between food and begging them to do the least thing, then give him hunger any day. He ate his egg and toast, drank a second cup of tea and went out into the hall to put his coat on. Sheepskin-lined it was, his pride and joy; thirty guineas it had cost him at Aquascutum.
But she came after him before he could flee the coop. “Now, remember to phone me the minute you pick up the tickets,” she said. “And ask them about the connection from Southampton with the boat train for Dublin. Because I want to put that into my letter to Mother this afternoon.”
“And, by the way, Gerry Grosvenor’s coming in at five. So don’t you be stravaging in at six, do you hear?”
What did she have to ask Gerry Grosvenor up here for? They could have said good-by to Gerry downtown. Didn’t she know damn well he didn’t want people seeing the inside of this place? Flute! His eyes assessed their present surroundings as Gerry Grosvenor’s would. The lower half of a duplex apartment on a shabby Montreal street, dark as limbo, jerry-built fifty years ago and going off keel ever since. The doors did not close, the floors buckled and warped, the walls had been repapered and repainted until they bulged. And would bulge more, for it was a place that people on their way up tried to improve, people on their way down to disguise: all in vain. The hegira of tenants would continue.
Still, what was the use in talking? She had asked Gerry: the harm was done. “All right,” he said. “Give us a kiss now. I’m off.”
She kissed him the way she would a child. “Not that I know what I’m going to give Gerry to drink,” she said. “With only beer in the house.”
“Sure, never mind,” he said and kissed her quick again to shut her up. “So long, now. I’ll be home before five.”
And got away clean.
Brian Moore emigrated from Northern Ireland in 1948 and wrote his first three novels while living in Canada. His many honours include two Governor General’s Awards, one of which was awarded for The Luck of Ginger Coffey.close this panel
“One of the master craftsmen of the modern novel.”
–Globe and Mail
From the Paperback edition.close this panel