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The Custodian of Paradise Paperback – Jun 19 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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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 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Epic artistry, an opportunity to witness a writer’s development and a second chance for readers to get what they wanted from The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.”
The Vancouver Sun

“Fielding is a truly unforgettable character.”
–Edmonton Journal

“[Johnston is] a literary giant who has god-given talent.”
–Will Ferguson, The Globe and Mail

“Why I love reading Wayne Johnston: The reader goes skittering through Wayne Johnston’s novels, driven inexorably forward on the force of his characters, on the power of his wit.”
–Mary Walsh

“The book moves because of Sheilagh’s passion and brilliance, and that is why Johnston has, against all probability, written a follow-up book that manages to outshine the original.”
National Post

Praise for Wayne Johnston:

“Wayne Johnston is prodigiously talented.”
The Globe and Mail

“Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer and his Newfoundland – boots and boats, rough politics and rough country, history and journalism – is vivid and sharp.”
–Annie Proulx

“Unlike most recent bestselling novels that are remembered for the plane flight and then promptly forgotten, Wayne’s stories have characters who move in and take up permanent residence.”
–Mary Walsh

“[Johnston is] a literary giant who has god-given talent.”
–Will Ferguson, The Globe and Mail

“His books are beautifully written, among the funniest I’ve ever read, yet somehow at the same time among the most poignant and moving.”
–Annie Dillard

About the Author

Wayne Johnston was born in Newfoundland in 1958 and grew up in Goulds, a small community a few miles south of St. John’s. When he was a boy, he couldn’t imagine a world beyond the island. "The only outside world I ever saw was on television, and I didn’t really even believe that world existed." At the time, people were still divided over entering Confederation with Canada, which had happened only in 1949. His family had a habit of moving around to different neighbourhoods and his schooling was "hyper-Catholic," elements that would feature in his autobiographical first novel.

He graduated with a B.A. (Honours) in English from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and worked from 1979 to 1981 as a reporter at the St. John’s Daily News. Being a reporter was a crash course in how society works, but Johnston realized he didn’t want it as a career. "I’m not that outgoing of a person and you have to be in order to be a good reporter." He moved away from Newfoundland, first to Ottawa, and took up the writing of fiction full-time. In 1983 he graduated with an M.A. from the University of New Brunswick. His first book, The Story of Bobby O’Malley, was published shortly after, and won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award. He followed this success two years later with The Time of Their Lives, which won the Canadian Authors Association’s award for most promising young writer.

Johnston’s third novel, The Divine Ryans, again a portrait of Irish Catholic Newfoundland, centres on a nine-year-old hockey fanatic whose father dies and whose family goes to live with relatives who once had money but are fast declining. One of Johnston’s most comic novels, it earned him the title of "the Roddy Doyle of Canada." The Divine Ryans won the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and has been adapted into a film starring Pete Postlethwaite. Johnston wrote the screenplay, as well as one for the adaptation of his next novel, Human Amusements. Published in 2002, Johnston’s first novel to be set outside of Newfoundland is a send-up of television’s early days and follows Audrey Prendergast, whose love for her family blinds her to all else and who sees the new medium of television as the only means of climbing the social ladder.

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Johnston’s fifth novel, was shortlisted in 1998 for the most prestigious fiction awards in Canada, the Governor General’s Award and the Giller Prize, the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; it won the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. It has been called a "Dickensian romp of a novel," and charts the career of Newfoundland’s first premier to create a love story and a tragicomic elegy to an impossible country. The novel has been published across North America and Europe and in several languages.

In 1999 Johnston published Baltimore’s Mansion, his first non-fiction book, a family memoir that also became a national bestseller and won the inaugural Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. Johnston uses the stories of his own childhood and those of his father and grandfather to cast light on Newfoundland’s struggle over relinquishing independence in 1949. A National Post reviewer concluded that it was a "non-fiction novel," drawing on all Johnston’s narrative powers to "shape the materials of real life into a work of astonishing beauty and power." A reviewer in Quill & Quire commented, "I began to smell the smells, hear the lilt, and experience a sense of the fierce attachment Newfoundlanders feel to their home province no matter where they live."

Johnston has lived in Toronto since 1989, although most of his writing continues to centre on Newfoundland. “I couldn’t write about the island while I was there,” he says. "Life was too immediate. I was too inundated by the place and its details. I’d write about something and see it when I walked across the street the next day." To write with any kind of objectivity, he continues, "I need distance to get that sense of what is important and what is significant and what is not."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
well written, little suspense; but i received two...???
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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 Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great companion to colony of unrequited dreams June 3 2007
By David W. Straight - Published on Amazon.com
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

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This man is a genius May 29 2007
By Janeway - Published on Amazon.com
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Strangely compelling. Jan. 19 2010
By Ed - Published on Amazon.com
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Articulately Depressing June 26 2008
By Elizabeth J. Love - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long and dreary for its pay-off April 9 2016
By Andrew D. Oram - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel paints a “paradise” of degraded poverty, illiteracy, class privilege, and hypocrisy, along with a protagonist who rebels against it. The battle goes on much too long--too many dreary scenes of isolation, too many conversations and letters saying the same thing repeatedly, too many ill-tempered screeds. The narrator is so mean-spirited, snobbish, impulsive, and vituperative that I for one could never develop any sympathy for her. Her one enjoyable quality, her wit, does not redeem her, as her associates tell her too often. Mysteries abound, and they do drive the novel along and make it an intriguing read, but the resolutions of the mysteries are not worth the effort expended by author or reader in getting to them.

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