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The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne…

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1998)

by Wayne Johnston

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893159,888 (4.08)155



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
i finished this novel a few days ago but, so far, i haven't been able to consolidate my thoughts vey well. so this 'review' may be a bit of a mess - sorry!

johnston is a great writer - his prose is lovely, funny and smart, and his eye seems to come at things from a slightly off-centre slant. i loved (LOVED!) the character of fielding. so much so, at moments i kept wishing this novel was all about her. johnston did a great job weaving the history into his story. i very much appreciated the feel for newfoundland presented through his writing.

where things fell apart for me a wee bit - and why i have't been able to come up with anything helpful to say for a few days - was at the end. it felt like the story was very backloaded and rushed, and the mystery of the letter writer was not very satisfying and ended up feeling unnecessarily drawn out.

so for now i have landed on 4-stars. for the most part, i was completely swept up by this book, and i wouldn't hesitate in recommending it to certain readers. i think i will get out my copy of 'The Custodian of Paradise', since my beloved sheilagh fielding takes centre stage!! thank you, wayne johnston! ( )
1 vote Booktrovert | Oct 18, 2015 |
Generally a good book. Slows down in places, a long read. ( )
  sail7 | Nov 9, 2014 |
Fictional biography of Newfoundland’s famous premier, Joseph Smallwood. This is a tricky thing to do—using the facts of a person’s life and building a novel around them. I want to read a non-fiction biography of Smallwood and fix the “facts” in my mind soon.

I think the author did a great job of defining what drove Smallwood. Johnston’s prose goes down as smoothly as a spoonful of chocolate pudding.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. 5 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jun 7, 2012 |
Wonderfully written, with a great exploration of the history of Newfoundland, the book was exceptionally well done.

The writing style was what initially pulled me in, has the prose and flow of the book come together nicely, and help create the atmosphere of the book and Newfoundland, what kept m reading was learning about the vast history of the province and the history behind the main character. I love learning all the background history from the initial discovery of it, to modern times. It was in-depth and tied into the story well. I never found the historical fiction accounts of Newfound lad overtook the rest of the story, but instead added an interesting element to it, and helped move it along. At times, the province (which for most of the book, was its own country) almost is a character on its own. But I thought the author created a wonderful picture of Newfoundland and its history.

I also enjoyed the story of Smallwood and his climb from the bottom to the top, it may be a bit of a cliché, of a young man with a poor family who beats the odds and succeeds in politics - but I didn't find that to be the case in the book. I enjoyed following Smallwood and his fight to make something for himself. The author did a fantastic job at creating a very in-depth character.

The way the book was written was well done and interesting, as it was broken into sections and at the beginning of the chapters, so to speak, was small passages on the history of Newfoundland - which I really enjoyed and found them to be very interesting. I also enjoyed the passages of Fielding's history of Newfoundland between the sections of the book.

What I didn't like was Fielding's big mystery. It was revealed to be one thing part way through the book, which I excepted, but then near the end of the book, it was revealed to be something else - which I didn't like. One, I thought the final revelation came out of left field, characters were mentioned and talked about that didn't have much effect of the rest of the book and it really felt like it was thrown in there, and it didn't flow well with the rest of the book. I also felt that it was properly wrapped up in the end of the book or with the characters involved - it was mentioned, it seemed to have a big impact on the characters, then it was forgotten. I think it would have been better if the "conclusion" the mystery used midway through the book was used, it seemed to fit better with the book. I also found some of the development of the characters, mainly the minor ones, forced as well as some of their character attributes - which isn't a big deal, because you won't ever like all the characters in the book, but I found some were used to much, and they got boring quickly. Otherwise, a fantastic book, and a wonderful historical account on Newfoundland.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Colony of Unrequited Dreams ( )
  bookwormjules | Jan 28, 2012 |
This is a novelized account of Newfoundland's first premier Joseph "Joey" Smallwood. It's a "rags to riches" story with a lot of disappointments for Joe along the way. He made his name in journalism and organized labor unions over the years. I really can't say that I liked Joe's character or his politics, but I do admire his drive. In fact, I'm not sure that I really admired any character in the book. The book is a little long, and the author does lose a little steam as the novel progresses. It's as though more care was taken in the first half to two-thirds of the book, and the author was rushing to meet deadlines and took less care later. Still it's an interesting story of how Newfoundland came to be a Canadian province. ( )
  thornton37814 | Feb 14, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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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)
For seven women of St. John's

Claire Wilkshire, Mary Lewis, Lisa Moore, Sue Crocker, Mary Dalton, Beth Ryan and Ramona Dearing
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385495439, Paperback)

In 1949, Joseph Smallwood became the first premier of the newly federated Canadian province of Newfoundland. Predictably, and almost immediately, his name retreated to the footnotes of history. And yet, as Wayne Johnston makes plain in his epic and affectionate fifth novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Smallwood's life was endearingly emblematic, an instance of an extraordinary man emerging at a propitious moment. The particular charm of Johnston's book, however, lies not merely in unveiling a career that so seamlessly coincided with the burgeoning self-consciousness of Newfoundland itself, but in exposing a simple truth--namely, that history is no more than the accretion of lived lives.

Born into debilitating poverty, Smallwood is sustained by a bottomless faith in his own industry. His unabashed ambition is to "rise not from rags to riches, but from obscurity to world renown." To this end, he undertakes tasks both sublime and baffling--walking 700 miles along a Newfoundland railroad line in a self-martyring union drive; narrating a homespun radio spot; and endlessly irritating and ingratiating himself with the Newfoundland political machine. His opaque and constant incitement is an unconsummated love for his childhood friend, Sheilagh Fielding. Headstrong and dissolute, she weaves in and out of Smallwood's life like a salaried goad, alternately frustrating and illuminating his ambitions. Smallwood is harried as well by Newfoundland's subtle gravity, a sense that he can never escape the tug of his native land, since his only certainty is the island itself--that "massive assertion of land, sea's end, the outer limit of all the water in the world, a great, looming, sky-obliterating chunk of rock."

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams bogs down after a time in its detailing of Smallwood's many political intrigues and in the lingering matter of a mysterious letter supposedly written by Fielding. However, when he speculates on the secret motives of his peers, or when he reveals his own hyperbolic fantasies and grandiose hopes--matters no one would ever confess aloud--the novel is both apt and amiable. Best of all is to watch Smallwood's inevitable progress toward a practical cynicism. It seems nothing less than miraculous that his countless disappointments pave the way for his ascension, that his private travails ultimately align with the land he loves. This is history resuscitated. --Ben Guterson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A novel on a 40-year love-hate relationship between a colorful politician and his childhood love, now a journalist. He is Joe Smallwood, populist premier of Newfoundland and their relationship is portrayed in his memoir, interspersed with her acerbic comments.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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