The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams Paperback – Sep 7 1999
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In The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Wayne Johnston transforms the story of longtime Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood into a vastly inventive drama of ambition, history, and landscape, aided by the entirely fictional creation of Sheilagh Fielding: unconsummated love interest, eccentric journalist, and a character so vivid and singular that she even overshadows Smallwood himself, one of the true originals of Canadian history.
From Publishers Weekly
"As lived our fathers, we live not,/Where once they knelt, we stand./With neither God nor King to guard our lot, We'll guard thee, Newfoundland": so rings the resigned, ironic patriotism practiced by the inhabitants of the bitter-cold northerly territory in Johnston's (Human Amusements) grand and operatic novel, a bestseller and literary prize nominee in Canada. Treating the history of Newfoundland as a bad jokeAwhose punch line is finally delivered on April 1, 1949, when the in-limbo British territory joins in confederation with CanadaAJohnston's most compelling character (in a book that teems with eccentrics, drunks, swindlers and snobs), Sheilagh Fielding, writes a condensed version of the classic History of Newfoundland. The terse and mordant chapters of this masterwork, to which she devotes all her energies (when not scribbling furiously in her epistolary diary or eking out the columns of her daily political satire, "Field Day") are interleaved in the narrative to great effect. The bulk of the book comprises the autobiographical musings of historical figure Joe Smallwood, whose rise through local socialist activism to international political eminence culminates in his orchestration of the treaty with Canada. It is dwarf-sized Smallwood's tireless ambition, as well as his crippling romantic insecurity, that keep him forever at arm's length from his childhood love and best friend Fielding. In their hometown of St. John's, in Manhattan's downtown tenements, in the desolate railroad man's cabin where Fielding holes up with a typewriter and a bottle of Scotch, Smallwood and Fielding torment and intrigue one another, each harboring the shame and fury of a secret from their school days that has gone unresolved. In a book of this magnitude and inventivenessAsome of Fielding's quips are hilarious, and Johnston proves himself cunning at manipulating and animating historical factAit is perhaps the device of this lifelong secret that most tests the reader's faith: that full disclosure resolves all the complicated mysteries of this book is slightly disappointing. Nonetheless, the variety provided by Fielding's writings is delightful, and this brilliantly clever evocation of a slice of Canadian history establishes Johnston as a writer of vast abilities and appeal. BOMC and QPB selections; author tour. (July) FYI: Johnston's comic novel, The Divine Ryans (not published in the U.S.), will be released by Anchor in August to coincide with the film version, starring Pete Postlethwaite.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is vibrant and alive, straightforward, believable,and wholly warm and human. The parts of the book based on actual history are much more fantastic than the parts of the book which are pure fiction. The book explores some interesting ideas--the twin pursuit of compassion and ambition, the persistence of love over time, and the effects on the protagonists of constant self re-invention. The reader comes away with a sense of place as to Newfoundland, with that feeling of having "known" the characters,and with an abiding respect for a gifted novelist. This is one of the truly great novels I've read.
But as I read along, a sneaking suspicion entered my mind. I did a little bit a family research, and it turns out that I am distantly related to the character of Prowse, who could be loosely described as Smallwood's arch-enemy. Admittedly, it is a tenuous relation (three generations by marriage), but still, very cool. And of course, it helps that the novel is one of astonishing quality.
COLONY tells of the slow rise of Joey Smallwood, from his very humble beginnings to his eventual election as Newfoundland's first premier. Now, I don't know anything about the history of Newfoundland. I don't believe the book is meant to be a technically accurate representation of Smallwood's life. This is not a biography.
What COLONY is, is a vastly entertaining look at the twists and turns that can occur in the life of one man. As in John Irving's best novels ( I kept thinking of THE CIDER HOUSE RULES as I read along), COLONY is an epic view of a tiny subject. As Smallwood's life progresses, the story becomes more and more enriched with characters and themes and regrets and promises. What Smallwood does with his life is miraculous, and sometimes awe-inspiring. I don't mean to imply that Smallwood is a saint. But his flaws and delusions only serve to heighten his triumphs and failures.
As I said, I don't know how much of COLONY is factually true. Did he have an ongoing unrequited love affair with his childhood friend and nemesis Fielding? Are the motivations behind his actions accurate? In the end, it doesn't matter. This isn't meant to be a treatise on the political background of a premier. This is a story, and a damned fine one. And it is obvious after reading it why, for all his mistakes, Joey Smallwood is a widely beloved figure in Newfoundland.
He went from being a socialist to being a demigod who did not fear retribution for his acts of vengeance .
A woman I knew in 1949 could not be persuaded that Joey did not pay her Baby Bonus out of his own funds.
Someone once said that the greatest orators of all time were Our Lord Jesus, Hitler , and Joey.
Amen to that.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is a welcome addition to our student library. The students now have a variety of books to choose from for their English course. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Bonnie McCaull
we ordered this book Dec.9/13 and still it hasn't gotten here.....so it is going to be hard to rate this book.Published on Jan. 5 2014 by Betsy French
We choose this book for our book club. It was actually too long of a book
for a book club, I think. However, the story and the journey of the lives in it were fascinating. Read more