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The Navigator of New York Paperback – Sep 9 2003


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  • Prizes and Awards: Giller Prize Shortlist 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Sept. 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067697533X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676975338
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.3 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #291,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The race to get to the North Pole frames a young explorer's effort to unearth his family history in Johnston's latest, a captivating narrative that delves into both the noble and the seedier aspects of the human need to discover and explore. Devlin Stead is the orphaned protagonist raised by his aunt and uncle in Newfoundland after his physician father dies in a polar expedition under the aegis of Robert Edwin Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook. The boy's sheltered existence is shattered when he receives a series of letters from Cook that reveal the explorer-who had committed an indiscretion with Devlin's mother-to be the boy's real father. Cook invites Devlin to New York, where he takes him under his wing and makes him his assistant. Their strange relationship culminates when father and son journey to Greenland to rescue the stubborn Peary, who has become stranded while trying to reach the pole and refuses to give up and return. Devlin then becomes deeply involved in Cook's effort to beat Peary to the pole, participating in Cook's infamous 1908 attempt that was decried as a hoax. Johnston (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams; Baltimore's Mansion, etc.) occasionally gets overly caught up in the details of Devlin's murky personal history yet delivers a satisfying character study, and the polar explorations generate considerable narrative tension when the family subplot flattens out. Johnston's ability to illuminate historical settings and situations continues to grow with each book, and this powerful effort is his best to date.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

As with Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Johnston draws on historical events to build his new novel. A fierce duel was waged during the years 1907-09 between Adm. Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, each claiming to have been the first to reach the North Pole. Against the backdrop of this dispute, Johnston tells the story of a lonely Newfoundland boy named Devlin Stead who grows up under a shadow because his parents reputedly committed suicide. As Devlin observes, "I could think of no greater thing than to be an explorer, the epitome of my most cherished belief, which was that a man's fate was not determined by the past." In fact, Devlin's fate is much in thrall to the past. The thrill of polar exploration, the beauty and terror of glaciers, and the horror of the long Arctic nights are splendidly evoked. The secrets of Devlin's parents are slowly revealed, adding intrigue and suspense to the last two-thirds of the book. For all collections of serious fiction.
Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By George Klima on Nov. 17 2011
Format: Paperback
I had really high hopes for this book because it had so many interesting ingredients: Frederick Cook, the great impostor, Peary the arctic explorer whose claim to the North Pole is still being debated, Newfoundlanders in New York... as it turns out, much of the book consists of prose that might have come from a teenage girl's diary. The first half of the book is a long tedious build-up to not much happening in the second book. We do meet Peary and his wife in some unlikely historical fiction and that's about it.

Give the book a miss and either read some literature or some junk. This book is junk pretending to be literature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By tom scott on Dec 17 2002
Format: Hardcover
very well written and researched story. the relationship that develops between devlin stead (the protaganist) and his benefactor Dr. cook is unique and fascinating. sadly, i think some reviewers on this site have missed the point; the sections of the book devoted to polar exploration are compelling, but they are framework for a more compelling story about relationships. If you enjoy this sort of story i highly recommend his earlier memoir baltimore's mansion.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MacFly on April 5 2008
Format: Paperback
The Navigator of New York, by Wayne Johnston, is a wonderful piece of Canadian literature. This thick volume is a work of fiction but focuses on the actual event of the race to be the first person to reach the North Pole. Johnston's writing is rich and detailed as he unravels a complex and compelling story for the reader. This is the third book I have read by this author and I have truly enjoyed each one of them. They are substantial books - they have lots of pages - but are well worth the investment of time for the reader. This novel has twists and turns that continue to catch the reader off guard - while the twists are surprising, they are completely believable. Anyone who wants to read truly great Canadian writing should investigate this author.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mrs.jenpen on Nov. 7 2003
Format: Hardcover
I chose to read this book based on it's wonderful reviews. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. While I enjoyed the exploration adventure of the story, the poorly veiled "intrigue" did nothing for me. Each time the story was becoming unbearably boring, new, previously unrevealed information would be unveiled by the superficial Dr. Cook. I made myself finish this book, but was extremely disappointed by the ending, which after a long struggle through, culminated in about 20 pages. Good thing I got this for free....
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