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The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1998)

af Wayne Johnston

Serier: The Newfoundland Trilogy (book 1)

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1,1412217,887 (4.09)193
Joseph Smallwood was born on Christmas Eve in 1900, and was fated to lead his native Newfoundland out of English rule and into the arms of its giant neighbour, Canada.
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Engelsk (21)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (22)
Viser 1-5 af 22 (næste | vis alle)
Smallwood helps create newfoundland. ( )
  sherribrari | Jun 7, 2024 |
I decided not to finish this. Learning that one of the two central characters who was (in the book) a lifelong influence on Joey Smallwood, who "casts a haunting shadow over" (dust jacket blurb) Smallwood's entire life, is fictional? Deal breaker for me. It's confusing when you don't know enough solid history to disentangle fact and fiction and frustrating when after reading a whole book, wind up knowing less than when you started. I gave it a few chapters, but the depiction of Smallwood's brutal alcoholic father was so detailed with dialogue and incidents that surely must have been invented, that I decided I really didn't want to get any more uninformed about Newfoundland than I already am.

Also, after reading that, I cannot look at the Smallwood-on-railroad-tracks cover (Vintage/Random House edition) without reading it as COLONY OF UNREQUITED DRAMS.
  muumi | Jan 1, 2023 |
entertaining! ( )
  Kgferris | Jul 12, 2021 |
Impressive, unconventional, funny, mesmerizing historical novel about Newfoundland and two of its maverick inhabitants, Joe Smallwood (scavenging journalist, loser, one-time socialist and later PM of Newfoundland) and Sheilagh Fielding (journalist, muckraker, brave, cynical, extremely funny woman of endless qualities). It is the interaction between these two doomed lovers that carries the story, whereby the character and wit of Fielding is infinitely more impressive than the lame, hair-brained, fickle, fame-seeking character of Smallwood.

(Mind! spoilers ahead!) It all revolves, it seems, around a limited number of encounters at school, where Joey (smallwood) hangs out with a group of elite boys (invited by Prowse, the leader of the gang, grandson of a Newfoundland judge at the high court, who wrote a very influential History of Newfoundland) and Fielding hops over from the neighbouring girls High, playing girlfriend of Prowse. The start and end of the affair comes rapidly when an accusing letter is received by the head of school, Reeves, which incriminates Joey. Reeves, who wishes to expel Joey anyway, considering him a low life with corresponding character (pegged at 45 out of a 1000), tries to get Joey to take responsibility. Joey refuses to do so. Then Fielding steps forward and admits she has written the letter to get back at Joey. Result – Fielding is expelled from her school, and not much later Joey drops out from his school. Now who really wrote the letter, and why? In the remainder of the book we follow Joey’s failed career as journalist, scraping a living in new York for five years, and after his return to Newfoundland organising railway workers for the union by walking all the tracks and side branches (and being saved by Fielding in a sudden snow blizzard); him going by boat along all destitute settlements and once the pack ice closes in, continuing on foot along the South end of the island state, him ending up running a radio show as the Barrelman, sharing local folklore and gaining him national fame, which then comes in handy once he starts campaigning for Confederation with Canada after ww2 and winning several elections after the surprise outcome of the national referendum. Fielding is not so fortunate – she is bent on a career as sharp-tongued, witty, cynical commentator for a variety of newspapers.

And then at the end of it all, the Fielding’s terrible secret is borne out. And that’s a real tear jerker. Not only did she bear two kids, to lose one in the war, without him knowing who she was, also the dad of her kids is a surprising one. In the process Johnston has rewritten Newfoundland’s history and made the reader part of that history of failure, ice, foiled plans and hard lives (with the imagery of dead frozen sealers on the ice as one that will not easily be forgotten). And Johnston has given the world one unforgettable character – Fielding. Onwards to the next odyssey around her (The custodian of paradise)! ( )
  alexbolding | May 20, 2020 |
i don't know enough about Joey Smallwood to know whether he was such a cipher. But if he was even the addition of a love interest for him - which apparently was controversial - fails to save the Smallwood character in this book from being at all interesting. The character has no interior depth and as the book is first person it eventually just becomes a long drone. There's no feeling to his feelings for Fielding, little depth to his feelings about his father - and those are really the only meaningful interpersonal dynamics at play in the book. Smallwood's interior monologue is nothing more than blank description of things with occassional motivation thrown in His political evolution is dealt with as a mere fact and small event, his motivations for confederation are undeveloped. If you're looking for a historical read this is not it. If you're looking for an interesting character study, this is not it. If you're looking for a romance, this is not it. This is written in the style of the later moderns - a loose baggy thing patterned on Dickens but without his detail, interesting characters or historical grounding - like a later John Irving novel. I was very much looking forward to this book and very disappointed to read it. unrequited, indeed. ( )
  TBergen | Sep 1, 2018 |
Viser 1-5 af 22 (næste | vis alle)
Verdientermaßen wurde dieser Roman für die prestigeträchtigen Auszeichnungen Griller Prize und den Governor General's Award in Kanada nominiert. Obwohl Johnston hierbei leer ausging, findet sein Roman mit Recht Aufmerksamkeit und Lob sowohl in Europa als auch in den USA. Letztlich ist Neufundland dank dieser literarischen Flaschenpost nicht länger ein blinder Fleck auf der kulturellen Landkarte der Neuen Welt.

 

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The history of the Colony is only very partially contained in printed books; it lies buried under great rubbish heaps of unpublished records, English, Municipal, Colonial and Foreign, in rare pamphlets, old Blue Books, forgotten manuscripts . . . -- D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland (1895)
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Joseph Smallwood was born on Christmas Eve in 1900, and was fated to lead his native Newfoundland out of English rule and into the arms of its giant neighbour, Canada.

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