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The Custodian of Paradise Paperback – Jun 19 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (June 19 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676978169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676978162
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #268,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Sheilagh Fielding—a striking, unconventional, six-foot-three Newfoundland woman with a limp—returns from prolific Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams for this highly atmospheric sequel. Near the end of WWII, Fielding (as she is known), a notorious St. John's columnist, holes up on the nearby deserted island of Loreburn after her mother dies and leaves her a small inheritance. There, Fielding senses the presence of her mysterious "Provider," who has shadowed her all her life and whom she has never met face-to-face. As Fielding tells her story—abandoned by her mother at six; raised by a father who insinuates she's not his—Fielding's Provider draws closer to her solitary retreat. But Fielding has long kept another secret: she gave birth to twins at the age of 15, who were raised as her half-siblings by her mother in New York City. Johnston's descriptive prose can be exhilarating, from the windswept island to a dingy Manhattan, and he has a sure hand with historical nuggets. There's little tension over the 500-plus pages, and the denouement (her father's identity; her children's fate) is overblown. But Fielding is a fascinating character: she courts her own estrangement as much as she is tormented by it. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Suspend your disbelief and sit back for a gripping read in the vein of a nineteenth-century romantic novel but featuring a twentieth-century woman. Feisty, iconoclastic, and extremely ironic, Sheilagh Fielding was originally introduced in Johnston's^B award-winning historical novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1999). There she was featured as the fictitious companion of Joey Smallwood, first premier of Newfoundland. Now, however, she is the star, and her story is a riveting one. The novel opens with Sheilagh, in time and space very close to the end of the novel, trying to find a deserted island to live on. The novel ends with her leaving that island, not many months later. But the time between those two events spans almost 30 years and two wars. Through the use of diaries--her own and others--as well as letters, Sheilagh tells her fascinating story, a tale that includes the puzzle of her paternity and the everlasting effects of her own motherhood. The unsatisfactory ending begs a sequel, but even so, this would make for a rousing discussion in a book club. Maureen O'Connor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leah Driscoll on Jan. 17 2010
Format: Paperback
My only regret was when the book ended; not that the ending was bad, just that I enjoyed this book so much I could have kept reading it for weeks! Johnston's "Sheilagh Fielding" is witty and worn from sorrow, recounting the trouble from her past in the seclusion of an abandonned island off the coast of NewFoundland. (Who hasn't romanticized about living on a deserted island?) Her tale has some surprising twists that keep you page-turning for answers, which do not disappoint. This novel is composed of several well written letters of correspondence between the main character and her "provider" which take you back to the prohibition era; pre-confederate NFLD. I hadn't read any previous works from Johnston about this character, but I intend to.
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By HELENE LEBRUN on June 6 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
well written, little suspense; but i received two...???
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Rossiter on Jan. 1 2007
Format: Hardcover
This new novel by Wayne Johnston picks up the story of Sheilagh Fielding, first introduced in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. This character is a bitter, brittle, brilliant wreck of a woman. The reader delights in her wit and her repartee while glimpsing the grief that underpins everything in her life. Johnston has added an interesting plot to match this wonderful character study, making it a terrific read. My biggest quibble with the book is the length. Weighing in at over 500 pages I could have used a bit more editing. Don’t let that put you off reading it – it is worth the time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
great companion to colony of unrequited dreams June 3 2007
By David W. Straight - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Johnston's excellent Colony of Unrequited Dreams featured Joey Smallwood

with Sheilagh Fielding as a strong secondary presence. This novel

reverses that order--it features Sheilagh Fielding with Joey Smallwood

more in the background. This is not a book that you can hurry through--

think of a cup of very hot, very rich coffee--you have to sip it and savor

it slowly.

The writing is superb--rich prose with a wonderful sense of time and

place. Sheilagh Fielding, for reasons unclear at first, takes up

residence on an island off Newfoundland's south coast--in an abandoned

fishing village. There's very little of the present--perhaps 90% of

the story is retrospective--a looking back at the events in her life.

At six feet three and sharp-tongued (to put it mildly) she has not made

many friends (other than Smallwood). But she has a mysterious "provider"

who has kept an eye on her. The provider's role slowly unfolds--and much

of what Sheilagh (and the reader) thought they knew about her (Sheilagh's)

life gets turned around. In a way, this reminds me of Robert Goddard's

novels (qv) where the past gets unravelled many years later--but in this

case (unlike Goddard's books) Sheilagh starts learning about the

provider when she's 16, and at age 44 (when the novel opens) she has

been learning bits and pieces since she was 16. For me, the process was

like slowly and carefully taking the many layers of wrappings off a very

delicate object.

Johnston has written another wonderful book--this doesn't have the

historical sweep of Colony--but it's layered and rich, and not to be

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This man is a genius May 29 2007
By Janeway - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit, Wayne Johnston could write about anything and I'd gladly read it, and the fact that critics have compared him to Dickens is no surprise to me. I would, without hesitation, say he is the greatest novelist of our time. His words are like a warm sea that I could float in all day, and the continuity between this book and The Colony is perfect.

Sheilagh Fielding is my favorite character of all time, and when I first heard Mr. Johnston was devoting an entire novel to her, I thought it was too good to be true. And it was definitely worth the wait. There could have been no better followup to The Colony, and The Guardian may even be a greater book, if that is possible. My hat is definitely off to Mr. Johnston, a true genius in our midst.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Strangely compelling. Jan. 19 2010
By Ed - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I came to this book on my nightstand and read the blurb, I couldn't imagine why I had bought it in the first place. When you read descriptions of the plot, it seems, at best, dull.
But the writing is wonderful. And the details, and sense of place, are fantastic. I couldn't put this book down, and you won't be able to either.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Articulately Depressing June 26 2008
By Elizabeth J. Love - Published on
Format: Paperback
Wayne Johnston is a favorite author of mine. He writes so beautifully but the heroine this time around chained me and dragged me into whatever abyss the author happened to be in at the time. I always enjoy the historical aspects of his work, and the colorful characters generally make one think, laugh and commiserate but I could only find despair in Sheleigh. Her sarcasm was clever and intriguing for about three chapters, then I had no further tolerance. It was difficult to finish.
Excellent Nov. 30 2011
By JoeV - Published on
Format: Hardcover
With World War II in the background, forty-something-year-old Sheilagh Fielding packs her trunks to take up residence on a "deserted" island - population zero, Sheilagh checked - off the coast of Newfoundland. Her solitary goal is to write a novel. She has a tale to tell and an extraordinary tale it is, for it is the story of her tumultuous life.

Ms. Fielding is a unique individual; physically striking and over six feet tall; she is also lame in one leg. She is highly intelligent with a razor sharp wit. Conversing with Sheilagh - or finding yourself on the wrong side of her acerbic pen - Fielding is a "journalist" - is a dangerous proposition and not recommended for the thin-skinned. (She describes herself as "pointlessly at odds with everything".) Seemingly invulnerable, Sheilagh is also very human and just like the rest of us, is seeking her place in the world.

The Custodian of Paradise is a sweeping old-fashioned novel in the finest sense, sliding back and forth between "real-time" and the past with a wealth of interesting and quirky characters. There is much despair in Sheilagh's life and much of it is self-inflicted, yet as we learn, each time "Fielding" is knocked down - and she is knocked down a lot - she brushes herself off, rises and continues to persevere. Her mind - and particularly her wit - serving as both her protective armor and her psychological/emotional weapon of choice.

This may sound depressing or even maudlin, but it's not. Fielding's story is not only poignant, but at times laugh out loud funny, with Shielagh's uncanny ability to turn a phrase, sentence and paragraph - her saving grace and the book's driving force.

Just to add the novel's complexity there is a multi-level/multi-generational mystery concerning Sheilagh's familial connections and her heritage.

The Custodian of Paradise is a pseudo-sequel to the critically acclaimed The Colony of Unrequited Dreams - an historical novel based on the life of Joseph Smallwood, the first Prime Minister of Newfoundland. (Smallwood has a - err - small role here in this book.) And although I would suggest reading that book, it is not necessary to do so before reading this one. Interestingly, although I enjoyed Unrequited, I do not remember the details and will reread it soon. Conversely, this book which did not receive similar glowing reviews as its predecessor, I see sticking with me for quite some time.

Highly recommended.

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